Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Summer of 1861: July 30 through Sept. 2, 1861

July 30, 1861:
Gen. Benjamin Butler, in command of the Federal garrison at Ft. Monroe, Virginia, sends inquiry to the Sec. of War: we have 900 escaped slaves–what do we do with them?

July 31, 1861: Pres. Lincoln signs a commission promoting the unknown Ulysses S. Grant to the rank of Brigadier General, upon the recommendation of Rep. Elihu Washburne (R-Ill). Grant is put in charge of troops and supplies being gathered at Cairo, Illinois.

August 5, 1861: The USS Vincennes, off the coast of northern Florida, captures and burns a Rebel blockade runner, the Alvarado.

Congress passes the First Confiscation Bill, to whit: the property of persons in arms in rebellion to the United States is forfeit to the U.S. government.

August 8, 1861: Influenced by Gen. Butler’s legal arguments (he was a lawyer as a civilian), Sec. Cameron of the U.S. War Department authorizes Butler to keep the escaped slaves as "contraband of war."

August 10, 1861: BATTLE OF WILSON’S CREEK, Missouri. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, advancing through Springfield with 5,200 men (mostly Missouri and Kansas troops and Regulars with some from Iowa), meets a combined Rebel force of two Confederate brigades under Gen. Benjamin McCullough (mostly Arkansas troops, with a regiment from Louisiana and another from Texas) and the Missouri State Guard–technically not Confederate troops–under Gen. Sterling Price, for a total of over 13,000. Lyon splits his army, sending a brigade under Gen. Franz Sigel around the Rebel right, and then launches an attack at a superior enemy line. He is pushed back and then drives back two Rebel attacks. Lyon is killed instantly while leading a charge. The Federal troops fall back to Springfield, and eventually to the railhead at Rolla, Missouri. Losses:

U.S .– 258 killed, 873 wounded, 186 missing Total: 1,317

C.S. – 277 killed, 945 wounded, 10 missing Total: 1,232

Aug. 16, 1861: Several newspapers, including the New York Daily News and the Brooklyn Eagle are brought to court on sedition charges--for being pro-Confederate in their editorials.

Passed on Aug. 5, the First Confiscation Bill, allowing the Government to sieze the property of persons in arms against the United States is passed. It takes effect this week.

Aug. 14-20, 1861:Hero of Fort Sumter, Robert Anderson, is promoted to Brigadier General while military theoretician Henry Halleck is appointed Major General.

The "stone fleet"--a collection of old ships beyond useful life, loaded with many tons of rock rubble, readies to sail south. The intention of these ships is that they be sunk in the mouth of Charleston Harbor to block ships from getting in or out.

Aug. 24, 1861:In Richmond, Pres. Davis appoints three commissioners to act on behalf of the Confederacy in Europe. James Mason of Virginia (and the author of the much-hated 1850 Fugitive Slave law) is commissioner to Great Britain, John Slidell (former US Senator from Louisiana) is sent to France, and Pierre Rost of Louisiana to Spain. Their mission is to secure arms and supplies, purchase warships, borrow money, and work to establish diplomatic relations and even recognition for the CSA from these nations.

Aug. 24, 1861: Harper’s Weekly publishes an article on the issue of fugitive slaves coming into Union lines, and whether Federal troops are obligated to return runaways to their masters. Sec. of War Cameron tells Gen. Butler in Virginia 16 days ago that "property" belonging to persons in rebellion is considered forfeit. 
"Hence no question can arise as to fugitives from service within the States and Territories in which the authorities of the Union is fully acknowledged. But he says that in the States wholly or in part under insurrectionary control, where the laws of the United States are so far opposed and resisted that they can not be effectually enforced, it is obvious that the rights dependent upon the execution of those laws must temporarily fail, and it is equally obvious that the rights dependent on the laws of the State within which military operations are conducted must be necessarily sub- ordinate to the exigencies created by the insurrection, if not wholly forfeited by the treasonable conduct of parties claiming them. To this the general rule of right to services forms an exception."

San Bernardino, California - Maj. William S. Ketchum of the 4th U.S. Infantry, having steamed from San Francisco to San Pedro and landed his force of 2 companies of Regulars and 90 U.S. Dragoons, marched inland to quell uprisings in pro-Confederate Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. On this date, his force camps on the outskirts of San Bernardino and later marches through the streets as a demonstration of Federal power.

Aug. 27, 1861: Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. A joint U.S. Army-Navy expeditionary force sets out from Hampton Roads (Chesapeake Bay), under the commands of Flag Officer Silas Stringham and Gen. Benjamin F. Butler. This force approaches Hatteras Inlet, the best sea entrance through the Outer Banks barrier islands that guard the coast of North Carolina. The inlet is guarded by two Confederate forts, Ft. Clark and Ft. Hatteras. On this date, Butler's troops land behind Ft. Hatteras and set artillery batteries to shell the fort.

Aug. 28, 1861:
Battle of Hatteras Inlet:  Naval guns batter both forts and Ft. Clark is abandoned. Fort Hatteras surrenders later, leaving the Hatteras Inlet in Federal possession. Now, the U.S. Navy has open access to the vastness of Pamlico Sound, the vast inland waters that in turn give access to nearly all of the North Carolina coast. North Carolina, with the exception of the port of Wilmington, is effectively closed off to blockade-running commerce, and is vulnerable to more Union amphibious assaults on forts and towns that are on the Sound. This Northern victory cheers the Northern populace after the disastrous defeats on land in the summer weeks preceding this one. In the following weeks, Ocracoke Inlet and the rest of NC's inlets fall to Federal forces.

Aug. 30, 1861: Without approval from the White House, Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont, commander of the Army's Dept. of Missouri, declares martial law throughout all of Missouri. He also orders the confiscation of property of all pro-Southerners who are in arms against the government. He also declares all slaves in his district to be free.

Sept. 1, 1861: Little-known Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, as ordered by Department commander Gen. Fremont, assumes command of all Federal troops in the district between the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers, known as the Department of Southwest Missouri.

West Virginia - Small forces collide in sharp skirmishes at Burlington, Blue Creek, and Boone Court House.

Sept. 2, 1861: Pres. Lincoln communicates with Gen. Fremont on his martial law proclamation in Missouri, and most of all with the provision to free the slaves, indicating that it is rather premature. He reminds Fremont (a fervent abolitionist) that he had no authority to do this and should rescind the order. Lincoln feels that this would alienate any Southern Unionists and "perhaps ruin our rather fair prospect for Kentucky."

Missouri: Dry-Wood Creek - A brigade of Kansas cavalry leavs Fort Scott, Kansas, and rides to intercept Gen. Price's Missouri troops moving slowly north to follow up their victories at Wilson's Creek and the subsequent occupation of Springfield, the principal town of the region. The Kansans surprise Missouri mounted troops near the Missouri state line, but are soon overwhelmed by the superior Rebel numbers. The Kansas troops retreat.

Tension on the border of "neutral" Kentucky increases. Capt. Given Campbell, a Pro-Confederate Kentuckian cavalry officer stationed in Paducah (at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers), writes to his girlfriend in St. Louis, on this date:
Mr. Lincolns Govt. does not allow one pound of provisions or goods of any kind to come to this place; and the Military authorities at Cairo have threatened to shell & burn the town of Paducah to the ground, if the citizens offer any more indignities to the vessels of U.S. This is a large threat, but the people here are not the least frightened, and on account of these warm Southern sentiments the town is known in the South as "little Charlestown." Matters here are rapidly assuming a grave aspect, and we are all satisfied that this state will soon commence her ordeal of fire & blood. Many families have left Louisville, Lexington & other places in the state from a vivid apprehension of coming dangers. I am satisfied that Ky. will never be a reliable member of the Confederate States until she has gone through a bloody purgation.

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