Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27, 1863

January 27, 1863:  Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker assumes command of the Army of the Potomac.  Reactions to his appointment are varied.  Gen. Meade knows that Hooker is a good battlefield commander, but doubts his abilities to lead a large organization.  Darius Couch believes his appointment to be a mistake that Lincoln would regret.  Others consider Hooker “inordinately vain” and “entirely unscrupulous.”  One artillery officer doubts his tactical prowess.  His headquarters has been described as being always a combination of “barroom and brothel.”  Others doubted his organizational ability—and this was a crucial point—since the Army of the Potomac was in an organizational shambles, from logistics to the structure of the units, from rations down to medical resources.  Hooker immediately rids the army of the troublesome officers most likely to challenge his authority, including Gen. Franklin and Gen. “Baldy” Smith, both of whom had been very critical of Burnside.

---The Richmond Daily Dispatch prints an editorial that acknowledges the superiority of the North in maritime activity, while also noting that the North’s seagoing commerce relied upon Southern resources---raw materials like cotton as a lucrative cargo, along with oak, pine, pine tar, and hemp---which were now denied them.  Moreover, the Dispatch wonders why England, in a chance to subdue forever America’s martitime ascendancy, does not come into the war on the side of the South:

The nerves and sinews of that maritime power which threatened to overwhelm the earth have been abruptly sundered in the dissolution of the Union. The land which furnished Yankeedom the great staples of its commerce, which furnished it the fishing bounties that trained its seaman, and even the very live oak, pine, tar, and hemp that equipped its ships, has been lost forever to the United States. It must hereafter give up its proud ambition of being a first-rate naval and commercial power. No wonder that it puts forth such gigantic efforts in this war. Those efforts are for self- preservation, over more than for Southern subjugation. The latter is now sought as a means to an end, and that end is, to keep itself on the map of the world. It is astonishing that England, which sees and knows the[s]e facts, statedly and perseveringly maintain the position of us [so?] called neutrality, and deliberately incur the hazard of a restoration of her old rival to the capacity of inflicting upon her at a future period the ruin of her commercial and naval ascendancy.

---In Bloomfield, Missouri, The 68th Missouri Militia runs a raid on a Rebel base there, capturing 52 prisoners, 70 horses with equipments, and over a hundred muskets. 

---A small naval flotilla of Union vessels, led by Capt. Worden (of Monitor fame) on the ironclad USS Montauk, steams upriver on the Great Ogeechee River in Georgia, and attack Fort McAllister, near Savannah.  After several hours’ bombardment, the Yankee ships move back downstream, unable to do any significant damage to the fort.

---In France’s bid to subdue Mexico, a French flotilla bombards Acapulco, Mexico, and the naval facilities there.

---Henry Adams, son and secretary to Charles Francis Adams, Sr., American ambassador in London, writes to his brother Charles, Jr., an officer in the U.S. Cavalry serving in Virginia.  Henry cites the political unrest in England which may be decisive in keeping Britain out of the war:

I went last night to a meeting of which I shall send you a report; a democratic and socialist meeting, most threatening and dangerous to the established state of things; and assuming a tone and proportions that are quite novel and alarming in this capital. And they met to notify Government that “they would not tolerate” interference against us. I can assure you this sort of movement is as alarming here as a slave insurrection would be in the South, and we have our hands on the springs that can raise or pacify such agitators, at least as regards our own affairs, they making common cause with us. I never quite appreciated the “moral influence” of American democracy, nor the cause that the privileged classes in Europe have to fear us, until I saw how directly it works. At this moment the American question is organizing a vast mass of the lower orders in direct contact with the wealthy. They go our whole platform and are full of the “rights of man.” The old revolutionary leaven is working steadily in England. You can find millions of people who look up to our institutions as their model and who talk with utter contempt of their own system of Government. Within three months this movement has taken a development that has placed all our enemies on the defensive; has driven Palmerston to sue for peace and Lord Russell to proclaim a limited sympathy. I will not undertake to say where it will stop, but were I an Englishman I should feel nervous. . . . There are few of the thickly populated districts of England where we have not the germs of an organisation that may easily become democratic as it is already antislavery. With such a curb on the upper classes, I think they will do little more harm to us.

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