Wednesday, October 12, 2011

150 Years Ago -- The Battle of the Head of the Passes

Confederate ironclad ram CSS Manassas attacks ...Image via Wikipedia

A lot of naval history occurred on Saturday, October 12, 1861.

The ironclad ram Manassas led a couple of armed steamers and other assorted vessels in an early morning raid against the Federal flotilla blockading the Mississippi at Head of the Passes.

The Manassas proved to be a big disappointment.  The ship rammed the USS Richmond to open the engagement, piercing her hull below the waterline, but the collision actually did more damage to the Manassas, causing mechanical problems that kept the ram from striking again.  But the guns still worked and the flotilla's shots were bouncing off her ironclad sides; the Manassas started firing back and the rest of the Confederate ships joined in. Into the melee, the Confederates released large fire rafts to drift downstream into the Federal vessels.

The Federal flotilla tried to retreat through the Southwest Pass, but the Richmond and the Vincennes ran aground.  By this point, the battle had turned into a long-range trading of shots as the two Federal ships worked to get underway again.

The raid accomplished its short-term mission:  to run the Federal flotilla out of Head of the Passes.  And the Manassas gained a fearsome reputation.  But the Federal fleet would soon return in far greater numbers.

Also on this date, at Carondelet, Missouri, the Federal ironclad St. Louis was launched.  The ship would be the first of seven gunboats that would make up the core of the U.S. Navy 's Western Gunboat Flotilla.  The "Pook Turtles," designed by Samuel Pook and constructed by James Eads, would see their first action at the Battle of Fort Henry in February 1862, and would participate in every major action on the Upper Mississippi and its tributaries.

And, at Charleston, South Carolina, James Mason and John Slidell, the Confederate commissioners to Great Britian and France, headed for their new posts.  They ran the blockade at Charleston aboard the Theodora bound for Havana, Cuba.  Before they would reach Europe, they would become embroiled in an international incident that would almost start a war between the United States and England and gain the Confederacy the foreign recognition it needed.

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

150 Years Ago -- No Letters of Marque

Gideon Welles.Image of Gideon Welles via Wikipedia

On Tuesday, October 1, 1861, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles announced that the U.S. Navy would not be issuing letters of marque.

The Confederate Navy had been using privateers to disrupt Northern shipping since the earliest days of the war.  It was state-sanctioned piracy -- letters of marque were issued to private ship captains to attack and capture enemy vessels and bring them before admiralty courts for prize money.

Privateering was a viable tactic for a weaker naval power such as the Confederacy, which had few ships and few resources to build a fleet.  Armed ships and men could be mobilized to wreck havoc on Northern commerce, drawing U.S. resources away from the blockade and other duties.  In many cases, the privateers were employed as blockade runners.

Welles kept has opinion on privateering to himself and no letters of marque were issued.  Finally, on October 1, Welles's position was revealed and made official.  His chief objection to privateering was that it would "be a recognition of the assumption of the insurgents that they are a distinct and independent nationality."

SIR: In relation to the communication of R.B. FORBES, Esq., a copy of which was sent by you to this Department on the 16th ult., inquiring whether lettersof-marque cannot be furnished for the propeller Pembroke, which is about to be dispatched to China. I have the honor to state that it appears to me there are objections to, and no authority for, granting letters-of-marque in the present contest. I am not aware that Congress, which has the exclusive power of granting letters-of-marque and reprisal, has authorized such letters to be issued against the insurgents; and were such authorization, I am not prepared to advise its exercise, because it would, in my view, be a recognition of the assumption of the insurgents that they are a distinct and independent nationality.

Under the act of Aug. 5,1861, "supplementary to an act entitled 'An act to protect the commerce of the United States and to punish the crime of piracy,'" the President is authorized to instruct the commanders of "armed vessels sailing under the authority of any letters-of-marque and reprisal granted by the Congress of the United States, or the commanders of any other suitable vessels, to subdue, seize, take, and, if on the high seas, to send into any port of the United States any vessel or boat built, purchased, fitted out, or held," &c. This allusion to letters-of-marque does not authorize such letters to be issued, nor do I find any other act containing such authorization. But the same act, in the second section, as above quoted, gives the President power to authorize the "commanders of any suitable vessels to subdue, seize," &c. Under this clause letters permissive, under proper restrictions and guards against abuse, might be granted to the propeller Pembroke, so as to meet the views expressed by Mr. FORBES. This would seem to be lawful, and perhaps not liable to the objections of granting letters-of-marque against our own citizens, and that too without law of authority from the only constituted power that can grant it.

I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of a letter from Messrs. J.M. FORBES & Co. and others, addressed to this Department, on the same subject.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, GIDEON WELLES.

Also on this date, the Confederates held a council of war at Centreville, Virginia.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis conferred with Generals Joe Johnson and Beauregard.  The Confederacy would remain on the defensive, concentrating the armies and awaiting McClelland's advance in the spring.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

150 Years Ago -- A Contentious Cabinet Meeting

On Friday, September 27, 1861, a contentious cabinet meeting was held in General Winfield Scott's office with Major General George McClellan attending.  The main topics were the war and the inactivity of McClellan's army.  There was a general feeling that the war should have been over by now and most present wanted to know why it wasn't.  McClellan was still training and drilling his green recruits into a fighting force and would not be ready to move for several more months.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Naval Contrabands

On Wednesday, September 25, 1861, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles laid out the naval policy on contrabands in a command to Flag Officer Samuel Du Pont, commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. 
"The Department finds it necessary to adopt a regulation with respect to the large and increasing number of persons of color, commonly known as 'contrabands.' now subsisted at the navy yards and on board ships-of-war. These can neither be expelled from the service, to which they have resorted, nor can they be maintained unemployed, and it is not proper that they should be compelled to render necessary and regular services without compensation. You are therefore authorized, when their services can be made useful, to enlist them for the naval service, under the same forms and regulations as apply to other enlistments. They will be allowed, however, no higher rating than 'boys,' at a com­pensation of ten dollars per month and one ration per day."
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

150 Years Ago -- The Raid on Osceola

On Sunday, September 22, 1861, Kansas Jayhawkers, led by James Lane, a radical abolitionist, raided the town of Osceola, Missouri.  No military advantage was gained; it was a senseless two-day spree of looting, arson and drinking, just another chapter in the sordid guerrilla war along the Kansas-Missouri border.  Several pro-Southern citizens were executed in the town square.

When the raid was over, Lane's jayhawkers looted the town of everything they could carry and burned the rest.  The once prosperous town of 2500 was reduced to just 200 inhabitants and never again would have as many people as it did before the raid.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Lincoln Orders Fremont to Modify Emancipation Proclamation

On Wednesday, September 11, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Major General John Frémont in St. Louis ordering him to modify his August 30 proclamation to the people of Missouri.

The general had declared:
"The property, real and personal, of all persons in the State of Missouri who shall take up arms against the United States, and who shall be directly proven to have taken active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use; and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free."

On August 6, Lincoln had signed a Confiscation Act into law.  This act allowed for the confiscation only of those "persons held to service" who were "employed in hostility to the United States."  The act did not free the confiscated slaves.  Their status was left undefined, presumably for Congress to decide at some future time.  Lincoln found Frémont's emancipation proclamation to be dictatorial, far beyond the power of any general in the field.  At this point, he was trying to limit the war to the question of preserving the Union.  He asked Frémont to modify the order to conform with the Confiscation Act; the general refused.  Now Lincoln was through asking:

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 11, 1861,
Major-Gen. John C. Fremont:
SIR: Yours of the 8th, in answer to mine of 2d inst., was just received. Assuming that you upon the ground could better judge of the necessities of your position, than I could at this distance, on seeing your proclamation of Aug. 30, I perceived no general objection to it; the particular objectionable clause, however, in relation to the confiscation of property, and the liberation of slaves, appeared to me to be objectionable in its non-conformity to the act of Congress, passed the 6th of last August upon the same subjects, and hence I wrote you expressing my wish that that clause should be modified accordingly. Your answer just received, expresses the preference on your part that I should make an open order for the modification, which I very cheerfully do. It is therefore ordered that the said clause of said proclamation be so modified, held and construed as to conform with and not to transcend the provisions on the same subject contained in the act of Congress, entitled "An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes, approved Aug. 6, 1861," and that said act be published at length with this order. Your obedient servant,
(Signed) A. LINCOLN.

Also on September 11, 1861, in Kentucky, the legislature passed a resolution calling on Governor Beriah Magoffin to order Confederate troops to leave the state.  Another resolution calling for both armies to leave was defeated. 
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Jessie Fremont's Audience with the President

Jessie Benton Frémont (1824-1902), American au...Image of Jessie Benton Frémont via Wikipedia

On Tuesday, September 10, 1861, Jessie Benton Frémont arrived in Washington to plead her husband's case for his August 30 emancipation proclamation.

John Frémont, commander of the Western Department, had issued a proclamation declaring martial law in the state of Missouri, but he had gone further, promising to free the slaves of anyone found to be in rebellion against the United States.  There was also the matter of threatening to shoot anyone who was found guilty by a court-martial "who shall be taken with arms in their hands within these lines."

Lincoln had written to Frémont urging the general to modify his proclamation.  He saw it as dictatorial, far beyond any authority a general in the field might have.  The proclamation threatened to expand the war; Lincoln was trying to keep the war a simple matter of preserving the Union.  Freeing slaves would have a disastrous effect on the war effort, alienating Northern Democrats and the few slave states that were still in the Union, especially Kentucky.

Frémont took six days before replying to Lincoln.  He refused Lincoln's suggestion to modify the proclamation -- "If I were to retract of my own accord it would imply that I myself thought it wrong and that I had acted without the reflection which the gravity of the point demanded. But I did not. I acted with full deliberation and upon the certain conviction that it was a measure right and necessary and I think so still." He would only modify the proclamation if ordered to do so by Lincoln.

Now Mrs. Frémont was in Washington to plead her husband's case.  Jessie Benton Frémont was the daughter of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton.  She was no stranger to Washington and had met with most of the leading politicians of the day.  This trip would not be a pleasant one though.

After a tiring, two-day journey by train, she arrived at the Willard Hotel late in the evening of September 10 and sent a message to the White House, inquiring as to when she might meet with the president.  The reply was surprising:  "Now, at once. A. Lincoln."  Mrs. Frémont hurried to the White House.  Lincoln met her in the Red Room.  He was standing and did not offer her a seat.  She presented the general's letter.  Lincoln "smiled with an expression that was not agreeable" and read it.
 "(B)oth voice and manner made the impression that I was to be got rid of briefly...In answer to his question, 'Well?' I explained that the general wished so much to have his attention to the letter sent, that I had brought it to make sure it would reach him.  He answered, not to that, but to the subject his own mind was upon, that 'It was a war for a great national idea, the Union, and that General Frémont should not have dragged the negro into it. -- that he never would if he had consulted with Frank Blair.  I sent Frank there to advise him.'"

When Mrs. Frémont began to make the argument that emancipation would keep England and France from recognizing the Confederacy, Lincoln cut her off, noting "in a sneering tone," "You are quite a female politician."

Lincoln's side of the story was almost as equally unpleasant.  He told his secretary John Hay,
"She sought an audience with me and tasked me so violently with so many things, that I had to exercise all the awkward tact I have to avoid quarreling with her.  She more than once intimated that if Gen. Frémont should conclude to try conclusions with me he could set up for himself."

The next day, Mrs. Frémont met with Francis Blair, a longtime friend.  He scolded her, "Who would have expected you to do such a thing as this, to come here and find fault with the President?"  He later added, "Look what Frémont has done; made the President his enemy!"

Also on September 10, 1861, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston was appointed commander of the Western armies, commanding troops in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas and Kentucky.
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Friday, September 09, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Lincoln Writes to David Hunter

On Monday, September 9, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Major General David Hunter, requesting that the general go to St. Louis to assist Major General John Frémont in administering the Western Department.

From his vantage point some 800 miles away, Lincoln felt that the situation in Missouri was getting out of hand and that Frémont was in over his head as commander of the department.  Frémont had spent some $12 million to arm and equip his command, and as is usually the case when vast sums are spent in a big hurry, graft and corruption was rampant.  The headquarters was too lavish and Frémont was too isolated within it.  The military situation was unraveling after the defeat at Wilson's Creek; guerrilla warfare was becoming all too common.  On top of everything else, the president was displeased with Frémont's emancipation proclamation.

Many of these negative reports were coming from the Blair family.  One of the leading families in Missouri, the Blairs had urged the general's appointment, but had quickly fallen out with him.

David Hunter had graduated from West Point in 1822 and had been in the U.S. Army some 30+ years.  In early 1861, concerned for Lincoln's safety, he had volunteered to join the party escorting the president-elect to Washington for his inauguration.  Soon after the Civil War began, Hunter had been appointed colonel of the 3rd U.S. Cavalry, but just three days later had been promoted to brigadier general.  Commanding the 2nd Division of General Irvin McDowell's army, Hunter had been severely wounded at the Battle of Bull Run.  On August 13, he was promoted to major general.

Lincoln felt that Hunter could best assist Frémont as his chief of staff, but Hunter's rank was too high for Lincoln to order him to take the position.  On September 9, Lincoln wrote to Hunter:
"Gen. Fremont needs assistance which it is difficult to give him. He is losing the confidence of men near him, whose support any man in his position must have to be successful. His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself, & allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with. he needs to have, by his side, a man of large experience. Will you not, for me, take that place? Your rank is one grade too high to be ordered to it; but will you not serve the country, and oblige me, by taking it voluntarily?"

Hunter quickly agreed and set off for St. Louis, arriving there on September 13.  Instead of chief of staff, Frémont would make him a division commander.

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Fremont's Reply to Lincoln

On Sunday, September 8, 1861, Union Major General John Frémont replied to President Lincoln's "request" to modify his emancipation proclamation.

Frémont, commanding the Department of the West, had issued a proclamation on August 30, declaring martial law throughout the state of Missouri.  Lincoln had problems with the third paragraph which went further than the Confiscation Act recently signed into law:
All persons who shall be taken with arms in their hands within these lines shall be tried by court-martial, and, if found guilty, will be shot. The property, real and personal, of all persons in the State of Missouri who shall take up arms against the United States, and who shall be directly proven to have taken active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use; and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free.

Lincoln, who just then was trying hard to keep Kentucky in the Union, wrote to Frémont on September 2, asking the general to modify his proclamation.  Frémont finally replied on September 8:
Saint Louis, September 8, 1861.


MY DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 2d by special messenger I know to have been written before you had received my letter, and before my telegraphic dispatches and the rapid development of critical conditions here had informed you of affairs in this quarter. I had not written to you fully and frequently, first, because in the incessant change of affairs I would be exposed to give you contradictory accounts; and, secondly, because the amount of the subjects to be laid before you would demand too much of your time.

Trusting to have your confidence I have been leaving it to events themselves to show you whether or not I was shaping affairs here according to your ideas. The shortest communication between Washington and Saint Louis generally involves two days and the employment of two days in time of war goes largely toward success or disaster. I therefore went along according to my own judgment leaving the result of my movements to justify me with you.

And so in regard to my proclamation of the 30th. Between the rebel armies, the Provisional Government and home traitors I felt the position bad and saw danger. In the night I decided upon the proclamation and the form of it. I wrote it the next morning and printed it the same day. I did it without consultation or advice with any one, acting solely with my best judgment to serve the country and yourself and perfectly willing to receive the amount of censure which should be thought due if I had made a false movement. This is as much a movement in the war as a battle, and in going into these I shall have to act according to my judgment of the ground before me as I did on this occasion. If upon reflection your better judgment still decides that I am wrong in the article respecting the liberation of slaves I have to ask that you will openly direct me to make the correction. The implied censure will be received as a soldier always should the reprimand of his chief. If I were to retract of my own accord it would imply that I myself thought it wrong and that I had acted without the reflection which the gravity of the point demanded. But I did not. I acted with full deliberation and upon the certain conviction that it was a measure right and necessary and I think so still.

In regard to the other point of the proclamation to which you refer I desire to say that I do not think the enemy can either misconstrue or urge anything against it, or undertake to make unusual retaliation. The shooting of men who shall rise in arms against an army in the military occupation of a country is merely a necessary measure of defense and entirely according to the usages of civilized warfare. The article does not at all refer to prisoners of war and certainly our enemies have no ground for requiring that we should waive in their benefit any of the ordinary advantages which the usages of war allow to us. As promptitude is itself an advantage in war I have also to ask that you will permit me to carry out upon the spot the provisions of the proclamation in this respect. Looking at affairs from this point of view I am satisfled that strong and vigorous measures have now become necessary to the success of our arms; and hoping that my views may have the honor to meet your approval,

I am, with respect and regard, very truly, yours,


In addition to sending the letter, Frémont sent his wife, Jessie Benton Frémont, to Washington to plead his case.  She would arrive in Washington on September 10.
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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

150 Years Ago -- McClellan Goes Ballooning

Thaddeus S. C. Lowe. Library of Congress descr...Image of Thaddeus Lowe via Wikipedia

On September 7, 1861, Union Major General George McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, went ballooning with Thaddeus Lowe.

Lowe had been posted near Arlington, Virginia, at Fort Corcoran since his balloon was completed on August 28.  He conducted aerial reconnaissance and took several generals, reporters and artists aloft.  Just two days before McClellan's first flight, Lowe had gone aloft with Generals Irvin McDowell and Fitz John Porter.

McClellan observed the Confederate fortifications at nearby Munson's Hill and Clark's Hill, and got a view of Washington similar to this one that appeared in the July 27, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly.  It is unclear how many flights McClellan made, but he saw the value of the balloon as a military asset, and Lowe soon received an order to construct four more balloons and purchase portable gas generators.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Grant Occupies Paducah

Gen. U.S. Grant - Category:Images of people of...Image of Ulysses S. Grant via Wikipedia

On Friday, September 6, 1861, Union troops under Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant occupied Paducah, Kentucky, at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, without resistance.  This move was in response to the Confederate occupation of Columbus, Kentucky on September 3.

Kentucky's neutrality would have been violated in any case.  Major General John Frémont, the commander of the Union Department of the West, had ordered Grant to occupy Columbus as soon as possible.  While Confederate Major General Leonidas Polk didn't know about those orders, he had beaten Grant to the punch, but had unleashed a firestorm in Kentucky against the Confederacy by invading the state first.

Grant issued a proclamation to the people of Kentucky:
"I have come among you not as an enemy, but as your fellow-citizen. Not to maltreat or annoy you, but to respect and enforce the rights of all loyal citizens. An enemy, in rebellion against our common Government, has taken possession of, and planted its guns on the soil of Kentucky, and fired upon you. Columbus and Hickman are in his hands. He is moving upon your city. I am here to defend you against this enemy, to assist the authority and sovereignty of your Government. I have nothing to do with opinions, and shall deal only with armed rebellion and its aiders and abettors. You can pursue your usual avocations without fear. The strong arm of the Government is here to protect its friends and punish its enemies. Whenever it is manifest that you are able to defend yourselves and maintain the authority of the Government and protest the rights of loyal citizens I shall withdraw the forces under my command."

Polk's invasion of Kentucky was a major political blunder, but he also committed a strategic blunder.  He had planned to occupy Paducah as well, but had moved too slowly and let Grant take the town.  With Columbus, the Confederates could block the Mississippi with their big guns on the high bluffs, but Grant's occupation of Paducah gave the Federals another avenue for a Southern invasion:  the Tennessee River.  Grant would soon occupy Smithland, opening up the Cumberland River as well.

Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin would demand that both sides withdraw from Kentucky soil, but the state legislature would demand that only the Confederates withdraw, and would invite the Federals to give the state "that protection against invasion which is granted to each one of the states by the fourth section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States."

Magoffin vetoed the resolution, but both houses overrode the veto.  The General Assembly declared its allegiance to the Union and ordered the United States flag to be raised over the state capitol.
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Monday, September 05, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Foote Arrives in St. Louis

Andrew Hull FooteImage of Andrew Foote via Wikipedia

On Thursday, September 5, 1861, Captain Andrew Foote arrived in St. Louis to take command of the Federal naval forces on the upper Mississippi.  Foote superseded Commander John Rodgers.  Foote would later work closely with General Ulysses S. Grant in combined army/navy operations on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.

Foote briefly attended West Point in 1822, but left to accept an appointment as a midshipman at Annapolis.  He had a reputation as a fighter.  During the Second Opium War, in the Battle of the Pearl River Forts in Canton, China, in 1856, Foote led a landing party of 287 men.  They captured one fort and used the captured guns to attack and capture another fort.  Then, with the help of the blockading ships, they fought off a counterattack by some 3000 Chinese soldiers and captured two more Pearl River forts.

Rodgers would head east to serve under Flag Officer Samuel Du Pont in the Port Royal Expedition in October.  He would served in the U.S. Navy until his death in May 1882.  At that time he was the Navy's oldest active rear admiral.

Also on this date, President Abraham Lincoln met with General Winfield Scott.  The main topic of conversation was what to do about John Frémont, the commander of the Department of the West, who was becoming more of a headache for the administration with each passing day.

At Cairo, Illinois, General Ulysses S. Grant was looking to counter the Confederate position at Columbus, Kentucky.  He recognized the important of Paducah, at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, and formed an expedition to occupy the town.  The troops left that evening.  Grant informed Frémont of his intentions, but had the troops in motion before receiving a reply.
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Sunday, September 04, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Grant Takes Command at Cairo

Union Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant photo...Image of Ulysses S. Grant via Wikipedia

On Wednesday, September 4, 1861, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant arrived in Cairo, Illinois, to take command of the Union forces there.  Cairo was an important position near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  It was Grant's first major command of the war.

Grant was appointed to the position by General John Frémont, the commander of the Department of the West.  Frémont was a career officer in the U.S. Army, but he had come up and achieved nationwide fame through the Topographical Corps.  If he had been a member of the West Point clique, he probably would not have chosen Grant for this important assignment.

Grant had been typed as a drunk and a drifter.  At West Point, he developed a reputation as a poor student with bad study habits.  He graduated in 1843, ranked 21st out of 39 cadets.  He fought in the Mexican War, winning brevets for gallantry at Molino del Rey and Chapultepec, but after the war was posted at several remote garrisons where he fought boredom and loneliness by drinking.  He resigned in 1854.

In civilian life, he moved from one failed venture to another.  At one point, he was reduced to peddling firewood on the streets of St. Louis.  When the war began, he was able to gain a position as colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry only because Elihu Washburne, an influential congressman, took a liking to him.

Frémont also took a liking to him, describing him as as a man of "unassuming character not given to self elation, of dogged persistence, of iron will."  It would be one of the best decisions of Frémont's troubled time in St. Louis.  Grant arrived at Cairo and quickly began looking to counter the Confederate's position at nearby Columbus, Kentucky.

Also on this date, at Columbus, Confederate Major General Leonidas Polk issued a proclamation to the people of Kentucky, declaring that he had moved into Kentucky and occupied the town in order to protect it:
"The Federal government having, in defiance of the wishes of the people of Kentucky, disregarded their neutrality by establishing camp depots of armies, and by organizing military companies within her territory, and by constructing military works on the Missouri shore, immediately opposite and commanding Columbus, evidently intended to cover the landing of troops for the seizure of that town, it has become a military necessity, for the defence of the territory of the Confederate states, that the Confederates occupy Columbus in advance.  The major-general commanding has, therefore, not felt himself at liberty to risk the loss of so important a position, but has decided to occupy it in pursuance of this decision.  He has thrown sufficient force into the town, and ordered to fortify it.  It is gratifying to know that the presence of his troops is acceptable to the people of Columbus, and on this occasion he assures them that every precaution shall be taken to insure their quiet, protection to their property, with personal and corporate rights."
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Saturday, September 03, 2011

150 Years Ago -- The Confederate Army Invades Kentucky

Gen. Leonidas Polk, C.S.A., the fighting bishopImage of Leonida Polk via Wikipedia

Kentucky's position of neutrality in the Civil War was doomed to fail.  It finally came to an end on Tuesday, September 3, 1861, when Confederate troops under Brigadier General Gideon Pillow crossed into the state from Tennessee to occupy Columbus.  The troops soon placed guns on the high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

The move was ordered by Pillow's superior, Major General Leonidas Polk.  He feared the Federals were planning to occupy the town and was trying to beat them to the punch.  He would soon announce that he had occupied the town to protect it.

Polk was correct in his assessment of the situation.  The Federals were massed across the river in Missouri, and Major General John Frémont had ordered Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant to occupy Columbus as soon as possible.

Polk had signaled his intentions in a letter to pro-secessionist Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin on September 1:  "I think it of the greatest consequence to the Southern cause in Kentucky or elsewhere that I should be ahead of the enemy in occupying Columbus and Paducah."  When the troops were in motion, Polk wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis to tell him what he had done and why.

Pro-Unionist Kentuckians protested, but the greatest protests came from Tennessee Governor Isham Harris.  As long as Kentucky could stay out of the war, it would act as a shield protecting Tennessee from invasion.  Harris wrote to Confederate Secretary of War LeRoy Walker, who ordered Polk to withdraw immediately, but Davis countermanded the order, telling Polk that "the necessity justifies the action."

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Friday, September 02, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Lincoln Writes to Fremont

On Monday, September 2, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Major General John C. Frémont regarding the general's August 31 proclamation to the people of Missouri.

Lincoln ordered Frémont not to shoot any prisoners without his (the president's) authorization.  Lincoln feared that Frémont's threat that "all persons who shall be taken with arms in their hands within these lines shall be tried by court-martial, and, if found guilty, will be shot" would lead to the Confederates executing any prisoners they had taken in retaliation.

Lincoln did not order, but strongly suggested that Frémont modify his emancipation proclamation.  In his letter, Lincoln said that he believed the proclamation "will alarm our Southern Union friends and turn them against us; perhaps ruin our rather fair prospect for Kentucky."

Kentucky, with its divided population, was still pursuing a policy of neutrality, and both sides were still tip-toeing around that neutrality, recruiting, arming and training men from the state, but avoiding overt acts that might push the state toward the opposing side.  Lincoln feared that making the war about slavery would be just the thing to push Kentucky into the Confederacy.

Lincoln also feared that this proclamation would have an adverse affect on the slave states that were still in the Union and the Northern Democrats who were helping to fight the war.

On August 6, Lincoln had signed a confiscation act into law.  This act, which passed the House 60-48 and the Senate 24-11, permitted the confiscation of any property, including slaves, that was used to support the Confederacy.  The act stripped owners of their slaves, but left the status of the slaves unresolved.  For the time being, they would be the property of the Federal government.  Lincoln suggested that Frémont modify his proclamation to conform to the confiscation act.

Lincoln's letter to Frémont:


MY DEAR SIR:--Two points in your proclamation of August 30 give me some anxiety.

First. Should you shoot a man, according to the proclamation, the Confederates would very certainly shoot our best men in their hands in retaliation; and so, man for man, indefinitely. It is, therefore, my order that you allow no man to be shot under the proclamation without first having my approbation or consent.

Second. I think there is great danger that the closing paragraph, in relation to the confiscation of property and the liberating slaves of traitorous owners, will alarm our Southern Union friends and turn them against us; perhaps ruin our rather fair prospect for Kentucky. Allow me, therefore, to ask that you will, as of your own motion, modify that paragraph so as to conform to the first and fourth sections of the act of Congress entitled "An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes," approved August 6, 1861, and a copy of which act I herewith send you.

This letter is written in a spirit of caution, and not of censure. I send it by special messenger, in order that it may certainly and speedily reach you.

Yours very truly,

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Confederate Generals Confirmed

There had been few full generals in American history -- George Washington was a rare exception -- but on Saturday, August 31, 1861, the Confederate Congress confirmed five full generals who had been appointed by President Jefferson Davis.

The five, in order of seniority, were Samuel Cooper, Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert Edward Lee, Joseph Eggleston Johnston and Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard.

The appointments would cause some animosity between Davis and Joe Johnston.  Confederate law stated that generals of identical commissions would have seniority according to the rank they had held in the U.S. Army.  Johnston, who had held the rank of brigadier general in the old Army, was insulted to discover that he was now ranked fourth behind men who had been colonels in the U.S. Army.

In Davis's opinion, the determining factor was line commissions versus staff commissions.  Johnston had held a staff position.  Johnston was angered to discover that the three men who outranked him were all close friends of Davis.

Johnston, on September 12, would write a lengthy, passionate letter, "my earnest protest against the wrong which I conceive has been done me."  Davis dismissed it with a two-sentence reply:  "Sir:  I have just received and read your letter of the 12th instant.  Its language is, as you say, unusual; its arguments and its statements utterly one-sided, and its insinuations as unfounded as they are unbecoming."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Fremont's Proclamation of John C. Frémont via Wikipedia

On August 30, 1861, Union General John Frémont, commanding the Department of the West, issued an emancipation proclamation and confiscation act, stating, "The property, real and personal, of all persons in the state of Missouri who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall be directly proven to have taken an active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use, and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared freemen."

Since Union General John Frémont had arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 25 to take command of the Department of the West, his reputation had quickly plummeted.  The influential Blair family had urged his appointment, but had quickly turned against him, blaming him, among other things, for the death of Nathaniel Lyon, another Blair family favorite, and for the disaster that had befallen the main Union army in the west at Wilson's Creek.

Frémont had much to do -- he was expected to secure the state and plan an expedition down the Mississippi toward New Orleans -- but had little in the way of men or equipment to get the job done.  Guerrilla warfare was rapidly becoming rampant in the state, St. Louis seemed to be a hotbed of secessionist activity --Frémont had declared martial law in the city and suppressed two local newspapers on August 14 -- and there was also the problem of the combined army of Confederate/Arkansas/Missouri militia that had defeated Lyon at Wilson's Creek.

Luckily for Frémont, the pro-Southern forces had not followed up on their victory.  Ben McCulloch, commander of the Confederate forces, had not wanted to enter Missouri, and now couldn't be persuaded to pursue the defeated Federals to Rolla.  The Arkansans, their terms of enlistment nearing an end, had returned home, leaving Sterling Price's state militia force to go it alone.

Frémont had the makings of a good plan to secure the state.  Union troops under John Pope were already in the northeastern part of Missouri, stamping out the guerrilla warfare there.  Frémont proposed to hold the railroads radiating out from St. Louis by fortifying and garrisoning Rolla, Jefferson City and Ironton.  He would protect the Mississippi by fortifying Cape Girardeau, St. Louis and Cairo, Illinois.  When all that was done "my plan is New Orleans straight."

One of the few good decisions Frémont would make during his time at St. Louis was to select the right man to command the force at Cairo, Illinois:  Ulysses S. Grant.  Grant was nominated as a brigadier general of volunteers on July 31.  When his father learned of his promotion, he wrote, saying, "Ulyss, this is a good job, don''t lose it."

But two other problems were causing Washington to take a negative view of Frémont.  The first was that he needed all kinds of military equipment in a big hurry.  This would almost always cause a lot of irregularities and graft.  In fact, the War Department was also experiencing some of the same problems on a national scale, which would soon lead to Simon Cameron's ouster from his position as Secretary of War.

This rapid arming of his troops probably exacerbated the problems Frémont was having with the Blairs.  They were not getting what they thought was their rightful share of the action.

The other problem was Frémont's headquarters.  From Terrible Swift Sword by Bruce Catton:
"It began with the headquarters itself -- with the look of it, the atmosphere that pervaded it, and the people who were visible there. Headquarters had been housed in a good three-story dwelling that lay behind a pleasant lawn enclosed by a stone wall, at Chouteau Avenue and Eighth Street, rented for $6000 a year. The building was not actually too big and although the price was high it perhaps was not really excessive, in view of the fact that this was one of the most important military departments in the United States; but somehow the place seemed a little too imposing. Frémont had guards all over the premises, and there were staff officers to sift his callers -- the unending stream of people who simply had to see the general, most of whom had no business getting within half a mile of him -- and presently people were muttering that the man lived in a vast mansion and surrounded himself with the barriers of a haughty aristocracy.

"Many of these complaints reflected nothing more than the inability of a young republic to understand that an overburdened executive must shield himself if he is to get any work done. (After all, this was the era when the White House itself was open to the general public, so that any persistent citizen could get in, shake the hand of the President and consume time which that harassed official could have used in more fruitful ways.) But it is also true that Frémont brought a great many of these complaints on himself by his inability to surround himself with the right kind of assistants.

"Frémont had a fatal attraction for foreigners -- displaced revolutionists from the German states, from Hungary and from France, fortune hunters from practically everywhere, men who had been trained and commissioned in European armies but who knew nothing at all about this western nation whose uniforms they wore and whose citizens they irritated with their heel-clickings and their outlandish mangling of the American idiom. Frémont was taking part in a peculiarly American sort of war -- Price's backwoods militia was wholly representative -- and Missouri had felt from the beginning that the German-born recruits from St. Louis were a little too prominent. Now headquarters had this profoundly foreign air, and when a man was told that he could not see the general -- to sell a load of hay or a tugboat, to apply for a commission, to give a little information about Rebel plots, or just to pass the time of day -- he was given the bad news in broken English by a dandified type who obviously belonged somewhere east of the Rhine. It was all rather hard to take."

By the end of August 1861, it was all getting to be rather hard to take for Frémont as well.  He felt he needed some grand gesture that would set everything right, and thus came his proclamation to the people of Missouri:
Head-quarters of the Western Department,
St. Louis, August 31, 1861.

Circumstances, in my judgment of sufficient urgency, render it necessary that the Commanding General of this Department should assume the administrative powers of the State. Its disorganized condition, the helplessness of the civil authority, the total insecurity of life, and the devastation of property by bands of murderers and marauders who infest nearly every county in the State and avail themselves of the public misfortunes and the vicinity of a hostile force to gratify private and neighborhood vengeance, and who find an enemy wherever they find plunder, finally demand the severest measure to repress the daily increasing crimes and outrages which are driving off the inhabitants and ruining the State. In this condition the public safety and the success of our arms require unity of purpose, without let or hindrance, to the prompt administration of affairs.

In order, therefore, to suppress disorders, to maintain as far as now practicable the public peace, and to give security and protection to the persons and property of loyal citizens, I do hereby extend, and declare established, martial law throughout the State of Missouri. The lines of the army of occupation in this State are for the present declared to extend from Leavenworth by way of the posts of Jefferson City, Rolla, and Ironton, to Cape Giradeau on the Mississippi River.

All persons who shall be taken with arms in their hands within these lines shall be tried by court-martial, and, if found guilty, will be shot. The property, real and personal, of all persons in the State of Missouri who shall take up arms against the United States, and who shall be directly proven to have taken active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use; and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free.

All persons who shall be proven to have destroyed, after the publication of this order, railroad tracks, bridges, or telegraphs, shall suffer the extreme penalty of the law.

All persons engaged in treasonable correspondence, in giving or procuring aid to the enemies of the United States, in disturbing the public tranquility by creating and circulating false reports or incendiary documents, are in their own interest warned that they are exposing themselves.

All persons who have been led away from their allegiance are required to return to their homes forthwith; any such absence without sufficient cause will be held to be presumptive evidence against them.

The object of this declaration is to place in the hands of the military authorities the power to give instantaneous effect to existing laws, and to supply such deficiencies as the conditions of war demand. But it is not intended to suspend the ordinary tribunals of the country, where the law will be administered by the civil officers in the usual manner and with their customary authority, while the same can be peaceably exercised.

The Commanding General will labor vigilantly for the public welfare, and in his efforts for their safety hopes to obtain not only the acquiescence, but the active support of the people of the country.
J. C. Fremont,
Major-General Commanding.

The proclamation was quickly printed and made public.  Frémont also sent a copy to Washington for the president's input.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Establishing a Balloon Corps

Intrepid being cross-inflated from Constitutio...Image via Wikipedia

Thaddeus Lowe had put his dream of making a transatlantic balloon flight on hold to offer his services to his country.  In June 1861, he had demonstrated the military usefulness of his balloon to President Lincoln, then to a group of skeptical generals.

Lowe hoped to become the "chief aeronaut" of a balloon corps dedicated to aerial reconnaissance, but had competition from several other balloonists, including John Wise, John La Mountain, and the Allen brothers, Ezra and James.  After his successful demonstrations, he was asked to submit an estimate for the cost of making suitable balloons, but was soon informed that he had been underbid by Wise.

In mid-July, Lowe was conducting experiments on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institution when Captain Amiel Whipple of the U. S. Topographical Engineers sent him a message.  General Irvin McDowell was at Centreville, Virginia, and needed a balloon to conduct aerial reconnaissance of the Confederate position at Bull Run.  Wise had not shown up.  Whipple asked Lowe to bring his balloon down.

Since Lowe did not have a portable hydrogen gas generator it was necessary to inflate the balloon in Washington and tow it south.  Lowe was inflating his balloon at a gas main near the Columbian Armory when Wise finally showed up.  Lowe was ordered to disconnect his balloon and make way for Wise to inflate his.

Wise inflated his balloon and twenty men from the 26th Pennsylvania began the task of towing the balloon into central Virginia.  Along the way, Wise's balloon snagged on a low-hanging tree branch and burst.

Lowe inflated his balloon and started south.  He made it as far as Fall Church, where he learned of the Union army's rout at Bull Run.  Lowe remained where he was as the retreating army streamed past him.  When the last of the Federal pickets withdrew, Lowe started back toward Arlington, dragging his balloon in a heavy rainstorm.  He arrived at Fort Corcoran the evening after the battle with the balloon still fully inflated.

Two days later, when the weather finally cleared, Lowe made a free ascent and observed the victorious Rebel army still concentrated around the Manassas area.  The news was welcome in Washington, relieving tensions of an expected invasion.

But before Lowe could get the news back to the city, he had a serious misadventure.  As he returned to the Union lines, soldiers, thinking Confederates were piloting the craft, began firing on Lowe and demanding that he show his colors.  Lowe had no flag to show, so he stayed aloft and finally landed in a grove of trees a couple of miles outside the Union lines.  He was discovered by men from the 31st New York Volunteers, but he had twisted his ankle in the landing and could not walk out with them.  It was up to his wife to rescue him.  She procured a wagon, disguised herself as a farm woman and drove south to pick him up.  Lowe and his balloon were hidden in the bottom of the wagon and driven past Confederate pickets at dusk.

Lincoln ordered General-in-Chief Winfield Scott to form a balloon corps with Lowe as chief aeronaut.  On August 2, Lowe received his orders and instructions:

Arlington, August 2, 1861.
Mr. T. S. C. LOWE,

        SIR: You are hereby employed to construct a balloon for military purposes capable of containing at least 25,000 cubic feet of gas, to be made of the best India silk, not inferior to the sample which is divided between us, you retaining a part, with best linen network, and three guys of manilla cordage from 1,200 to 1,500 feet in length. The materials you will purchase immediately, the best the markets afford and at prices not exceeding ordinary rates; and the bills you will forward to me through Maj. Hartman Bache, chief of the Corps of Topographical Engineers. When these materials shall have been collected at Philadelphia, where the balloon is to be constructed, you will report to me, that I may send an officer of the corps to inspect them. You need not, however, wait for the inspecting officer, but go on rapidly with the work, with the understanding that it may be suspended, provided that upon examination the materials or work prove unsatisfactory.
        Your compensation from the day of collecting the materials and during the time of making the balloon shall be $5 per day, provided that a reasonable time be allowed for the collection and ten days for making. From and after the day that the balloon shall be ready for inflation at Washington, D.C., your compensation will be $10 per day as long as the Government may require your services.
        Inclosed herewith is an order authorizing the purchase of materials necessary for the operation with which you are charged.
Very respectfully,

Captain, Topographical Engineers.

        Mr. T. S. C. Lowe, aeronaut, is hereby authorized to purchase 1,200 yards of best India silk and sufficient linen thread, cordage, &c., for the construction of a balloon, and all reasonable bills for the same, when presented to me through the Bureau of Topographical Engineers, will be paid.
        Captain, Topographical Engineers.

Lowe began construction of this new balloon, the Union, and also began assembling and training a group of men in the art of military ballooning.  The Union Army Balloon Corps remained a civilian contract organization without military commissions.  This put the group in a somewhat precarious situation.  If any of the men were ever captured by Confederate troops they could be classified as spies and executed.  The Balloon Corps would eventually consist of seven aircraft.

The Union was completed on August 28, and Lowe was ordered to bring it to Fort Corcoran.  Because he still did not have a portable gas generator, Lowe was confined to operations near Washington, but the balloon stayed in constant use for almost two months.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Cross Lanes

On Monday, August 26, 1861, the Battle of Cross Lanes took place in western Virginia. 

Confederate troops under Brigadier General John Floyd crossed the Gauley River and attacked the 7th Ohio Regiment at Kessler's Cross Lanes.  It was an overwhelming assault that surprised the Federals while they were having breakfast.  It lasted just a few moments before the Federals broke and ran, leaving behind about 40 dead and 100 prisoners.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

150 Years Ago -- European Commissioners

On Saturday, August 24, 1861, Confederate President Jefferson Davis named his European commissioners -- Pierre Rost (Spain), James Mason (Great Britian) and John Slidell (France).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Rose Greenhow Is Arrested

GreenhowImage via Wikipedia

On Friday, August 23, 1861, Allan Pinkerton apprehended Rose Greenhow for spying and placed her under house arrest.

Maria Rosatta O'Neal was born on a farm in southern Maryland in 1817.  Her father was murdered by his slaves when Rose was just a child.  The family became destitute.  When Rose was 14, she and her sister Ellen went to live with an aunt, Maria Ann Hill, who ran the Congressional Boarding House across the street from the Capitol.

The boardinghouse was a center of Washington society.  Senators, congressmen, and other dignitaries lodged there, including John C. Calhoun, who was an important influence on Rose, transforming her into a self-described "Southern woman, born with revolutionary blood in my veins."

Rose was initially snubbed as a nobody, but soon found her place in Washington society.  When she was 18, she married one of Washington's most eligible bachelors, Dr. Robert Greenhow.  He had a law degree and a medical degree and was one of the highest-ranking members of the State Department.

When the Civil War began, Rose was a widow and a grande dame of Washington society.  At the center of everything that was anything in Washington, Rose soon was at the center of a vast espionage network.  She was now in her mid-40's and still a striking beauty.  She used her "almost irresistible seductive powers" to learn everything she could about General Irvin McDowell's army and passed the information along to General P. G. T. Beauregard in Virginia.

Acting on a tip, Allan Pinkerton, the head of the new Union Intelligence Service, placed Greenhow under surveillance.  On the evening of August 22, Pinkerton witnessed a Union officer giving military information to Greenhow.  She was arrested the next day.  A search of her house turned up a diary with several pages of notes, copies of orders from the War Department, and other incriminating documents.

Although under house arrest, Greenhow barely slowed her espionage activities for the Confederacy.  In January of 1862, she would be transferred to Old Capitol Prison.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Ordinance of Dismemberment

English: 1862 Map Showing the Proposed State o...Image via Wikipedia

The Unionists of western Virginia were still trying to secede from the seceders.  On Tuesday, August 20, 1861, the Wheeling Convention passed an "ordinance of dismemberment" by a vote of 50-28, creating a new state to be called "Kanawha" out of 39 Virginia counties west of the Shenandoah Valley.  The ordinance provided for an election on October 24 to choose delegates to a constitution convention.  The voters would also choose between "for a new State" or "against a new State."

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Friday, August 19, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Henry Halleck's Promotion

Henry Wager Halleck. Library of Congress descr...Image via Wikipedia

August 19, 1861:  The effective date of Henry Halleck's promotion to major general, making him the fourth-highest ranking officer in the U.S. Army after General-in-chief Winfield Scott, George McClellan and John Frémont.

Scott recommended Halleck for the promotion in consideration of his reputation as a military genius.  Halleck, a New Yorker, attended Hudson Academy and Union College, then West Point, graduating third in the class of 1839.  During his 15 years of service in the U.S. Army, he constructed seacoast defenses, studied French military tactics, lectured, wrote, taught.

He was assigned to California during the Mexican War, eventually serving under General Bennet Riley, the governor general of the California Territory.  Halleck was appointed military secretary of state and was one of the principal authors of the state constitution.  Halleck retired from the army in 1854.  When the Civil War began, he was amassing a fortune as a lawyer and land speculator in San Francisco.

Also on this date, the Confederate Congress passed a bill admitting Missouri into the Confederacy.  The bill did not mean much as it recognized the government of Governor Claiborne Jackson as the legal authority to ratify the constitution.  That government had been deposed and replaced with a more Unionist body.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

150 Years Ago -- George Thomas's Promotion

George Henry Thomas ( July 31, 1816 – Ma...Image via Wikipedia

On August 17, 1861, George Thomas was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers.  This was his third promotion in the last four months.  He would serve under Major General Robert Anderson in Kentucky, commanding an independent force in the eastern part of the state.

Thomas graduated from West Point in 1840, twelfth in his class, then served in the Seminole and Mexican Wars.  Thomas suffered an arrow wound in the chest during a fight with a Comanche warrior in August 1860.  Later that year, he fell off a train platform in Lynchburg, Virginia, severely injuring his back.

When the Civil War began, Thomas was serving in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry.  19 of the 36 regimental officers, including three of Thomas's superiors, Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert E. Lee, and William Hardee, resigned to join the Confederacy, but Thomas, a Virginia native, remained loyal to the Union.  Many members of his family never spoke to him again.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Lincoln States the Obvious

On Friday, August 16, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation officially declaring that the Confederate States "are in a state of insurrection against the United States."  Lincoln also declared "that all commercial intercourse (between the North and South) should forthwith cease and desist."

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Whereas on the 15th day of April, 1861, the President of the United States, in view of an insurrection against the laws, Constitution, and Government of the United States which had broken out within the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and in pursuance of the provisions of the act entitled "An act to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions, and to repeal the act now in force for that purpose," approved February 28, 1795, did call forth the militia to suppress said insurrection and to cause the laws of the Union to be duly executed, and the insurgents have failed to disperse by the time directed by the President; and

Whereas such insurrection has since broken out, and yet exists, within the States of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas; and

Whereas the insurgents in all the said States claim to act under the authority thereof, and such claim is not disclaimed or repudiated by the persons exercising the functions of government in such State or States or in the part or parts thereof in which such combinations exist, nor has such insurrection been suppressed by said States:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in pursuance of an act of Congress approved July 13, 1861, do hereby declare that the inhabitants of the said States of Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida (except the inhabitants of that part of the State of Virginia lying west of the Alleghany Mountains and of such other parts of that State and the other States hereinbefore named as may maintain a loyal adhesion to the Union and the Constitution or may be from time to time occupied and controlled by forces of the United States engaged in the dispersion of said insurgents) are in a state of insurrection against the United States, and that all commercial intercourse between the same and the inhabitants thereof, with the exceptions aforesaid, and the citizens of other States and other parts of the United States is unlawful, and will remain unlawful until such insurrection shall cease or has been suppressed; that all goods and chattels, wares and merchandise, coming from any of said States, with the exceptions aforesaid, into other parts of the United States without the special license and permission of the President, through the Secretary of the Treasury, or proceeding to any of said States, with the exceptions aforesaid, by land or water, together with the vessel or vehicle conveying the same or conveying persons to or from said States, with said exceptions, will be forfeited to the United States; and that from and after fifteen days from the issuing of this proclamation all ships and vessels belonging in whole or in part to any citizen or inhabitant of any of said States, with said exceptions, found at sea or in any port of the United States will be forfeited to the United States; and I hereby enjoin upon all district attorneys, marshals, and officers of the revenue and of the military and naval forces of the United States to be vigilant in the execution of said act and in the enforcement of the penalties and forfeitures imposed or declared by it, leaving any party who may think himself aggrieved thereby to his application to the Secretary of the Treasury for the remission of any penalty or forfeiture, which the said Secretary is authorized by law to grant if in his judgment the special circumstances of any case shall require such remission.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 16th day of August, A.D. 1861, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-sixth.

By the President:

Secretary of State.

Also on this date, in New York, a United States Circuit Court grand jury brought in an interesting presentment, accusing several newspapers of treason and asking the court's advice:

To the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York:
The Grand Inquest of the United States of America for the Southern District of New York, beg leave to present the following facts to the Court, and ask its advice thereon:

There are certain newspapers within this district which are in the frequent practice of encouraging the rebels now in arms against the Federal Government by expressing sympathy and agreement with them, the duty of acceding to their demands, and dissatisfaction with the employment of force to overcome them. These papers are the New York daily and weekly Journal of Commerce, the daily and weekly News, the daily and weekly Day Book, the Freeman's Journal, all published in the city of New York, and the daily and weekly Eagle, published in the city of Brooklyn. The first-named of these has just published a list of newspapers in the Free States opposed to what it calls “the present unholy war” --a war in defence of our country and its institutions, and our most sacred rights, and carried on solely for the restoration of the authority of the Government.

The Grand Jury are aware that free governments allow liberty of speech and of the press to their utmost limit, but there is, nevertheless, a limit. If a person in a fortress or an army were to preach to the soldiers submission to the enemy, he would be treated as an offender. Would he be more culpable than the citizen who, in the midst of the most formidable conspiracy and rebellion, tells the conspirators and rebels that they are right, encourages them to persevere in resistance, and condemns the effort of loyal citizens to overcome and punish them as an “unholy war” ? If the utterance of such language in the streets or through the press is not a crime, then there is a great defect in our laws, or they were not made for such an emergency.

The conduct of these disloyal presses is, of course, condemned and abhorred by all loyal men; but the Grand Jury will be glad to learn from the Court that it is also subject to indictment and condign punishment.

All which is respectfully presented.

New York, August 16, 1861.
Charles Gould, Foreman.

Monday, August 15, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Robert Anderson and the Department of the Cumberland

Major Robert Anderson - Commander of Fort SumterImage of Robert Anderson via Wikipedia

On Thursday, August 15, 1861, Union Brigadier General Robert Anderson, the hero of Fort Sumter, was appointed to command of the newly-formed Department of the Cumberland, comprising most of the states of Kentucky and Tennessee.

Anderson would relinquish command of the department to Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman in October.  Ill health is often cited as the reason for the change in command, but Anderson, who was reluctant to distribute arms to Kentucky Unionists, might have fallen out of favor with Lincoln.

The Department of the Cumberland would cease to exist in October, becoming a part of the Department of the Ohio, but would be resurrected in October 1862, with General William Rosecrans commanding.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Mutiny

On Wednesday, August 14, 1861, Union General George McClellan put down a mutiny in his army by men of the 79th New York Infantry Regiment.

The 79th New York, originally organized in July 1859 as a Scottish-American fraternity in New York City, was quickly mobilized after Fort Sumter.  Some recruitment brought the unit up to strength, then they marched down Broadway to Washington.

At the Battle of Bull Run, the 79th, then a part of Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman's Third Brigade, suffered heavy casualties.  Their commander, Colonel James Cameron, brother of Secretary of War Simon Cameron, was killed in the fighting on Henry Hill.

After the battle, they were put to work building defensive works around Washington, digging trenches with picks and shovels.  One New Yorker declared, "Spades were trumps and everyman had a full hand."

On the morning of August 14, the 79th New York rebelled, refusing to do any more work until their grievances were addressed.  In addition to the back-breaking work, they were also upset that they hadn't been allowed to vote for a new colonel to lead them.  Cameron's replacement, Colonel Isaac Stevens, had been appointed to lead them.

McClellan moved quickly to quash the mutiny.  The 79th New York was quickly surrounded by a battalion of regular army troops with loaded firearms.  The 79th gave up.  Twenty-one soldiers, the ringleaders of the mutiny, were sent to prison in the Dry Tortugas.

Also on this date, in Missouri, Union General John Frémont declared martial law in St. Louis.

Friday, August 12, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Proclamations

On Monday, August 12, 1861, Confederate General Ben McCulloch issued a proclamation to the people of Missouri.  McCulloch had defeated General Nathaniel Lyon's forces at the Battle of Wilson's Creek just two days before.  Now he was urging Missourians to pick a side:
TO THE PEOPLE OF MISSOURI: Having been called by the Governor of your State to assist in driving the National forces out of the State, and restoring the people to their just rights, I have come among you simply with the view of making war upon Northern foes and to drive them back. I give the oppressed of your State an opportunity of again standing up as freemen, and uttering their true sentiments. You have been overrun and trampled upon by the mercenary hordes of the North. Your beautiful State has been nearly subjugated, but those sons of Missouri who have continued in arms, together with my forces, came back upon the enemy, and we have gained over them a great and signal victory. Their General-in-Chief is slain, and many other of their other general officers wounded; their army is in full flight, and now if the true men of Missouri will rise up and rally around their standard, the State will be redeemed.

I do not come among you to make war upon any of your people, whether of Union or otherwise. The Union people will all be protected in their rights and property. It is earnestly recommended to them to return to their homes. Prisoners of the Union party, which have been arrested by the army will be released, and allowed to return to their friends.

Missouri must be allowed to choose her own destiny. No oaths binding your consciences will be administered.

I have driven the enemy from among you. The time has now arrived for the people of the State to act. There is no time to procrastinate. She must take her position, be it North or South.

BEN MCCULLOCH, Commanding.

In Washington, President Lincoln had a proclamation of his own, declaring the last Thursday in September to be "a day of humiliation, prayer and fasting for all the people of the nation," recommending to all that they "recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals, to humble ourselves before Him, and to pray for His mercy, — to pray that we may be spared further punishment, though most justly deserved; that our arms may be blessed and made effectual for the re-establishment of law, order and peace, throughout the wide extent of our country; and that the inestimable boon of civil and religious liberty, earned under His guidance and blessing, by the labors and sufferings of our fathers, may be restored in all its original excellence."

In West Texas, Mescalero Apaches raided Fort Davis, killing some cattle and scattering some horses.  The Confederates now holding the fort sent Lieutenant Reuben Mays and 14 troopers in pursuit.  The Apaches ambushed the cavalrymen in the Big Bend region, killing them all.

And, in Ilion, New York, Eliphalet Remington, the designer of the Remington Rifle, died of a heart attack while overseeing munitions manufacture at the E. Remington & Sons plant.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

150 Years Ago -- The Battle of Wilson's Creek

Battle of Wilson's Creek--Aug. 10, 1861--Union...Image via Wikipedia

On Saturday, August 10, 1861, the Battle of Wilson's Creek was fought in southwestern Missouri.

Missouri had been a busy place during the opening months of the Civil War.  Union Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon had done much to keep Missouri in the Union, including driving secessionist-minded Governor Claiborne Jackson out of the capital and routing the state militia at the Battle of Boonville.

Now Lyon was in a precarious situation.  He had pursued the militia to the southwest corner of the state, but they had been reinforced by Confederate troops -- mostly Texans and Arkansans -- under General Ben McCulloch, and now outnumbered his force 2-to-1.  Lyon was now twenty miles past his advance base of Springfield and suddenly realized that he could not advance, hold his ground, or even retreat without reinforcements, but his superior, John Frémont, had very few men to send him.

The commander of the state militia, Sterling Price, saw Lyon's predicament and tried to get McCulloch to attack, but the Confederate general demurred.  McCulloch had a low opinion of Price and his troops, and wasn't sure he should even be in Missouri at all.  The Confederate government did not want to wage war on foreign soil, which included Missouri.  McCulloch and Price argued, and Price finally told him, "You must either fight beside us or look on at a safe distance and see us fight all alone the army you dare not attack even with our aid."

Price finally won the argument and McCulloch ordered the combined Confederate/Missouri/Arkansas army to move to attack Lyon on the night of August 9.  But it rained that night and McCulloch cancelled the attack.

Lyon, meanwhile, decided that the best defense is a good offense, and launched his own attack, relying on surprise to overcome his lack of numbers.

In Terrible Swift Sword, historian Bruce Catton offers a lengthy, but entertaining summary of the armies involved in the Battle of Wilson's Creek:
"It was an odd sort of army, wholly representative of its time and place.  Lyon had, to begin with, a handful of regular infantry and artillery, tough and disciplined, full of contempt for volunteers, home guards, and amateur soldiers generally, whether Union or Confederate.  He also had several regiments of Missouri infantry, principally German levies from St. Louis, short of equipment and training, most of them grouped in a brigade commanded by Franz Sigel.  Sigel was an émigré from the German revolutionary troubles of 1848, trained as a soldier, humorless, dedicated, unhappily lacking in the capacity to lead soldiers in action; a baffling sort, devoted but incapable, who induced many Germans to enlist but who was rarely able to use them properly after they had enlisted.  There were two rough-hewn regiments from Kansas and there was a ninety-day outfit from Iowa, a happy-go-lucky regiment whose time was about to expire but whose members had agreed to stick around for a few days in case the general was going to have a battle. (The Iowans did not like Lyon at all but they trusted him, considering him a tough customer and competent.) There were also stray companies and detachments from here and there whose numbers were small and whose value was entirely problematic. In miniature, this was much like the Union army that had been so spectacularly routed at Bull Run except that it was even less well equipped and disciplined.

"Yet if this army was odd the army which it was about to fight was ever so much odder -- one of the very oddest, all things considered, that ever played a part in the Civil War. Lyon's army would have struck any precisionist as something out of a military nightmare, but it was a veritable Prussian guard compared to its foes. The Southerners were armed with everything from regulation army rifles to back-country fowling pieces, a few of them wore Confederate gray but most of them wore whatever homespun garments happened to be at hand when they left home, and for at least three fourths of them there were no commissary and quartermaster arrangements whatever. The various levies were tied together by a loose gentleman's agreement rather than by any formal military organization, and many of the men were not Confederates at all, owing no allegiance to Jefferson Davis, fighting for Missouri rather than for the Confederacy. The war was still a bit puzzling, in these parts.

"The core of this army (from a professional soldier's viewpoint, at any rate) was a brigade of some 3200 Confederate troops led by Brigadier General Ben McCulloch, veteran of the Mexican War and one-time Texas Ranger, an old pal of Davy Crockett who looked the part, an officer who liked to sling a rifle over his shoulder, get on his his horse, and do his scouting personally. His men were well armed, most of them wore uniforms, and they had had about as much military training as anybody got in those days -- enough to get by on, but nothing special. There were also 2200 state troops from Arkansas, one cavalry and three infantry regiments led by Brigadier General N. B. Pearce. These men had good weapons but no uniforms and little equipment -- they carried their ammunition in their haversacks for want of better containers -- and they brought along two batteries of artillery, guns which until quite recently had been reposed in the United States arsenal at Little Rock. And, in addition, there was the Missouri State Guard under Major General Sterling Price.

"No one quite knew how many men Price had -- between 9000 and 10,000, probably, of which number only about 7000 could be used in action; the rest had no weapons at all. There were a few regimental organizations, but for the most part the formations were nothing more than bands bearing the names of the men who led them -- Wingo's infantry, Kelly's infantry, Foster's infantry, and so on. The men had no tents, no supplies, no pay, hardly any ammunition and nothing whatever in the way of uniforms; an officer could be distinguished by the fact that he would have a strip of colored flannel on his shoulders, and one of the men described General Price himself with the words: "He is a large fine looking bald fellow dressed in common citizen clothes an oald linen coat yarn pants." None of them had been given anything which West Point would have recognized as drill; one group, led by former country lawyers, was called to quarters daily by the courtroom cry of "Oyez! Oyez!" and customarily addressed its commanding officer as "Jedge." Not even in the American Revolution was there ever a more completely backwoods army; these men were not so much soldiers as rangy characters who had come down from the north fork of the creek to get into a fight. Their commissary department consisted of the nearest cornfield, and their horses got their forage on the prairie; and a veteran of the State Guard wrote after the war that any regular soldier given command of the host would have spent a solid six months drilling, equipping, organizing, and provisioning it, during which time the Yankees would have overrun every last county in Missouri once and for all. He added that although Price's men had very poor weapons -- some of them actually carried ancient flintlocks -- they knew very well how to use them, and they did not scare easily."

Sigel convinced Lyon to try a pincer movement.  Lyon would split his outnumbered army, sending Sigel with 1200 men on a night march around McCulloch's army to attack his rear.  Lyon, meanwhile, would march straight ahead with the remainder of the army and attack McCulloch's center and left.  Everyone was in position at daybreak and the battle began.

Sigel's movement took the Confederates by surprise, driving them back, but a case of mistaken identity ruined the attack.  A unit in gray uniforms approached Sigel's position.  They were thought to be the 1st Iowa from Lyon's command, but turned out to be a Louisiana regiment.  They closed and fired a volley that disintegrated Sigel's forces.  An artillery barrage and an infantry counterattack sealed the deal.  Sigel's force broke and fled.

Once Sigel's flanking move dissolved, the battle turned into a bloody, head-on attack that lasted most of the morning.

Lyon was wounded twice and had a horse shot out from under him, but he found another horse and was attempting to rally his men when he was shot through the heart.  The battle gradually petered out and the Federals disengaged from the fight.  They soon discovered that their highest ranking officer on the field was Major Samuel D. Sturgis of the regulars.  Sturgis took command and led the army back to Springfield.

Both sides suffered about the same number of casualties -- a little over 1300 for the Federals (25% of the total present) and just over 1200 for the Confederate/Missouri/Arkansas force.

The Federals would retreat to Rolla.  Price tried to get McCulloch to pursue, but he refused, concerned about his own supply line back to Arkansas.  The Confederate and Arkansas troops would withdraw from the state, leaving Price to go it alone.  Price would begin an invasion of northern Missouri, culminating in the Battle of Lexington on September 20.

While Price's reputation soared, Frémont's plummeted. He seemed to have lost half the state in the short time he was in command.
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