Monday, April 18, 2011

150 Years Ago -- A Busy Day

Just one week past the shelling of Fort Sumter, Thursday, April 18, 1861, was a busy day featuring several noteworthy events.

In Virginia, state militia was amassing near Harper's Ferry.  Henry Wise, until recently the governor of Virginia, recognized the importance of the Federal arsenal there and acted quickly to capture it.  Without bothering to consult the current governor, John Letcher, Wise had met with state militia officers, who quickly mobilized their men.

The Federal troops at the arsenal, 42 men led by Lieutenant Roger Jones, set fire to the buildings and fled toward Pennsylvania.

The Virginia troops moved in early the next morning, April 19, to find that most of the rifle-making machinery was still serviceable.  It was shipped south to Richmond, where it was used throughout the war to make arms for the Confederacy.

In Washington, Colonel Robert E. Lee met with Francis Blair.  Blair, acting with the full authority of the president, offered Lee command of the United States Army.  Lee declined, saying that he must consult with General-in-chief Winfield Scott.  He went straight to Scott's office and informed him that he would be resigning his commission

In New York, Major Robert Anderson and his garrison from Fort Sumter arrived to a heroes' welcome.

And a bit of foreshadowing:  The first troops to answer the president's call for war were approaching Washington, but first they had to pass through Baltimore.  Their passage stirred up the city's pro-Southern population and stirred up rumors of violence.  Secretary of War Simon Cameron warned Maryland Governor Thomas Hicks to keep the peace, but failed to inform him of when the next troops would be passing through.

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