Saturday, January 19, 2013

January 18, 1863

January 18, 1863:  Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac, had planned to steal a winter march on Lee, going upriver to cross over the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers before Lee could get there to block the Yankee force.  But, due to the protest of some of his commanders, who argue that the bridges were not ready yet, Burnside relents and delays the march for a day.  But intelligence comes in that the United States Ford, Burnside’s targeted crossing point, was being closely watched by the Confederates, and that Southern artillery trains were moving in.  If that ford were blocked, Burnside is determined instead to cross at Banks Ford, which is closer, but is not really as far behind Lee’s flank as he would like.  Meanwhile, Lee sends a brigade of infantry to dig earthworks and defend United States Ford, in addition to the infantry.

---The Shelton Laurel Massacre.  A band of Unionists from Tennessee and western North Carolina move into Madison County to the village of Marshal in the latter state and raid a few homes and businesses.  In retaliation, Lt. Col. James Keith and the 64th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, which had been raised from the area, marches to this place and tracks the raiders to Shelton Laurel area.  Keith arrests several Unionist women and tortures them (using whipping among other methods) to get information about their husbands, and then rounds up 13 men and boys.  The prisoners are lined up and shot, and then dumped in a trench.  Gov. Zebulun Vance of North Carolina is shocked at the report, since he had given the 64th orders not to harm the prisoners.  Lt. Col. Keith is later arrested and court-martialed, even though he has already resigned his commission.  He is tried by a civilian court after the war, and after 2 years in jail, he escapes and is never heard of again.

---The mother of Capt. William Thompson Lusk writes to him of the tone of things at home in New York City:

New-York is full of Southern people in full sympathy with the South, bitter in word and action, and my blood often boils with indignation though I keep usually a quiet tongue. The news of our Western victories, and the intercepted rebel correspondence, make them rather more spicy than usual. You will see the disgraceful proceedings about the election of a Speaker in Albany. The Republicans behave far better than the Democrats. Oh! I am sick.

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