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Hatteras Forts Surrender

August 29, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

USS Pawnee

During the night, reinforcements had arrived at Fort Hatteras. They hoped they might be able to hold out with more troops that were on the way. But in the morning the Northern fleet returned. They found they could stand just outside the range of the fort’s guns and pour in a heavy fire. They were able to keep away a ship bringing more reinforcements to the garrison. The fort remained under this fire for three hours. At that point, even though they had suffered few casualties, they decided to surrender. The white flag was shown at 11:00 AM. Almost 700 men surrendered with the fort. The capture of these forts opened up the way for further Union attacks on North Carolina and Southwest Virginia. It also gave the Northern people a morale boost after the defeat at Bull Run.

Post from Civil War 150th Blog.

Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries

August 28, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

The Fleet Attacks Hatteras
Today the North began an attack on the Confederate Forts at Hatteras Inlet. Cape Hatteras stretches along the entire eastern border of the United States. During the Civil War it had important strategic significance. It provided access to Norfolk, an important Confederate naval base. The Northern trading ships would travel through the sound where the Confederate ships could easily capture them. The Confederates, knowing the North would not allow them to continue these attacks without an effort to stop them, built to forts at Hatteras Inlet, Fort Hatteras and Fort Clark. But the forts were very weak. They only mounted 15 guns, and only part of a regiment, the 7th North Carolina, occupied the fort. The Federals 880 men under Gen. Benjamin Butler to capture the fort. With him went seven ships, the USS MinnesotaCumberlandSusquehannaWabashPawneeMonticello, and Harriet Lane.
USS Wabash
The Northern fleet opened fire upon Fort Clark on the morning of August 28th and the defenders returned fire. Neither was very accurate, but soon the defenders ran out of ammunition and abandoned the fort. Moving on to Fort Hatteras, they continued the bombardment. The commander kept his ships moving to avoid being hit by the fort. But this also had the side effect of the gunners not being able to correct their shots at the fort. The defenders kept up a slow fire to avoid running out of ammunition. At one point, the flag having been shot away, the commander thought the fort had surrendered. The Monticello, sailing in to determine the truth, received the fire of the fort as she drew closer. She grounded, and was hit five times by the fire of the fort. However, she received no serious damage.

Butler had attempted to land his troops for a land attack, but owing to the high waves, less than half of them had reached the shore. When evening arrived, the bombardment ceased and both forces waited to renew the contest the next day.

Troops land on Hatteras

Post from Civil War 150th Blog.

Confederate Ambassadors Appointed

August 24, 2011 with 1 Comment and Posted in Uncategorized by

James Mason

Today, 150 years ago, three ambassadors were sent by the Confederate government to Europe to be ambassadors there. One of the South’s main hopes for victory was through foreign intervention. They knew the North had more men and resources, but many of the leaders hoped that foreign nations would come to their aid because of their need for cotton. A large part of England’s economy came from processing the South’s cotton, but they could not get any during the war because the North was blockading the South. So the South hoped that King Cotton would bring them on their side.

John Slidell

The three ambassadors sent were James Mason to England, John Slidell to France, and Pierre A. Rost to Spain. However, two of these men would do the Confederacy their greatest service before they even arrived in Europe.

Pierre A. Rost

Post from Civil War 150th Blog.

Battle of Wilson’s Creek

August 10, 2011 with 1 Comment and Posted in Civil War 150th by

Battle of Wilson’s Creek

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek began at 5:30 a.m. when Lyon launched a surprise attack on the Confederate camp. The Confederates were at first surprised, but under the cover of their artillery they were able to form on a ridge known as Bloody Hill. General Price, the Confederate commander, is able to resist a Union attack.

The other Union column, under Sigel’s command was delayed, and they did not attack until after Lyon. They were successful at first as well, but the Confederates rallied, and advanced to repel the attack. Sigel’s men, seeing the 3rd Louisiana Infantry advancing toward them, thought they were the 3rd Iowa Infantry, which wore gray as well. At a close distance they fired a volley and charged, destroying Sigel’s men and throwing them into rout. They fled, losing four cannon.

General Lyon

However, since the Union forces were separated by some distance, Lyon was not aware of this defeat. Price launched three attacks against the Union line, but he was unable to break it, once coming within 20 steps of the Northern troops. Lyon was shot as he was bringing up reinforcements. As Price was preparing for a fourth attack, news was brought to the Northern commander of Sigel’s defeat. Knowing they were greatly outnumbered and the assault was already a failure, a retreat was ordered, which was conducted in an orderly fashion. The Confederates, tired from their attacks and losses, did not pursue.

The losses were similar on both sides, 1,200 or 1,300. After the battle Price wished to continue his advance with the Missouri troops, but his allies from the neighboring states refused. So he continued North without them, while they left the state.

Post from Civil War 150th Blog.

Confederate Advanced into Missouri

August 9, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

Gen. Sterling Price

After the Missouri State guard and Gov. Claiborne Jackson were forced into exile, the governor’s office was declared vacant and a new, pro-Northern governor was selected. But the pro-Confederates would not give up that easily. After being re-enforced, Gen. Sterling Price, commander of the Missouri militia had advanced forward into Missouri. Even though his troops were of bad quality, Price determined to press forward to capture Springfield, where the Union troops were encamped.

Lyon, being outnumbered by over two to one, decided to attack the Confederate camp in order to allow him to make his retreat. He planned to attack in two columns, one on the flank and the other in front, and strike early on the morning of August 10th. So he started out on the rainy night of August 9th, 150 years ago today.

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Seven New Ironclads

August 7, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

James B. Eads

Today the construction of seven new ironclads was approved by the United States government. Ironclads remained a relatively new force in naval technology. They had seen limited service in Europe, and had proven to be useful there. Both North and South were working on ironclads for the Virginia theater, the Monitor and the Virginia respectively, but these new ships were intended for service on the Mississippi river. The boats were later named the Cairo, Carondelet, Cincinnati, Louisville, Mound City, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. These boats were funded by James B. Eads, an American inventor. They were all of the same design, and were called Pook’s Turtles after their builder and appearance. They were originally quoted at $90,000 per vessel, but the cost ended up being double that. Eads paid for them out of his own pocket, and they went into action before he was reimbursed by the federal government. These ships would be very important in the naval battles on the Mississippi river.

USS Cairo
USS Mound City

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Lincoln Confiscates the Slaves of the South

August 6, 2011 with 2 Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by


Today, 150 years ago, Lincoln signed the First Confiscation Act into law. The Confiscation Act permitted the seizure of any property used to support what they saw as the insurrection of the South. The property that was the most controversial was slaves. This would be the first step that the government would make towards freeing the Southern slaves. Lincoln was hesitant to sign the act, fearing it would make the remaining border states leave the Union to protect the slaves. But he eventually signed it on this day interpreting it not as freeing the slaves, but transferring their ownership to the Federal government.

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McClellan Takes Command of the Union Army

July 27, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

McClellan and his wife

 With the defeat of the North at Bull Run, George B. McClellan replaced McDowell as commander of their army. Today he issued his General Orders No. 1, in which he formally notified the army of his role as their commander. Although he had only won a few small battles in West Virginia, McClellan was the best hero the North had. He wrote to his wife on this day:

“I find myself in a new and strange position here; President, Cabinet, General Scott, and all deferring to me. By some strange operation of magic I seem to have become the power of the land,”

Post from Civil War 150th Blog.

Battle of Manassas 150th Reenactment

July 26, 2011 with 4 Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

Last Saturday we traveled to Virginia to attend the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Manassas/Bull Run. With over 8,000 reenactors, it was the biggest reenactment I have ever been to, and one of the largest there is. Although it was very hot, it was amazing to be able to get an idea of what a battle of that size would have looked like. Above is a short video of some of the footage we shot there. Here are some pictures as well. The complete album is here.

The Confederates Prepare for Battle
A Regiment Advances
The Federal line through the smoke of battle
The Confederate line advances
Part of the Confederate Battery

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Battle of Bull Run

July 21, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

Troops were moving before dawn on the morning of July 21st. Both of the armies on either side of Bull Run had similar strategies, for their left to attack their opponent’s right. But that is not how it turned out. Almost all military movements are late. This is even more true when green, inexperienced troops are involved, and both of these armies were made up of troops that had never been in combat. But through the coarse of events the Union army was able to strike first. Although they were delayed on the road, because of lost orders the Confederates had not even started to move by the time they realized they were completely outflanked by the Union forces.

Evan’s Brigade was the only force in position to meet the Union attack on the Confederate left. He only had two small regiments, but he used them to great effect. After meeting an attack at the Stone Brigde, he correctly guessed that the main attack would come further to the left. He also received news of the flanking movement from the signal officers of the Confederate army. He put his troops in position on a low hill. On the way were the brigades of Bee and Bartlow as reinforcements.
When Evans saw the Union advance, he opened fire and charged. The attack held back the Union troops just long enough for Bee’s Brigade to arrive, tired and panting from having ran several miles to reach the threatened point in time. Major Wheat of the 1st Louisiana was wounded in the attack. He was commander of Wheat’s Louisiana Tigers, a fearsome battalion recruited from the docks of New Orleans. As he lead his bowie knife welding men forward, he received a bullet through his lung. When the doctor told him that there was no case upon record where a man with that kind of wound had survived, he replied, “Well then, I will put my case upon record.” He did, and went on to continue to fight in the Confederate armies.
With the arrival of Bee and Bartlow’s Brigades to reinforce Evans, the Confederate left was temporarily stabilized. But they were still greatly outnumbered, and under a heavy fire. They charged in an attempt to break the Union line, but after heavy fighting they were push back after suffering many casualties. They streamed the the rear being followed by the exalting Union forces. The Union pursuers halted at the base of Henry Hill to stabilize their line.
At around noon the Federal line again advanced, moving up the Confederate line. But by this time Gen. Thomas Jackson’s brigade had arrived. He ordered his men to lie down behind the crest of the hill. As the other Confederate brigades began to fall back under the enemy’s pressure, Bee rode up to Jackson and said, “General, they are beating us back.” Jackson replied, “Sir, we’ll give them the bayonet.” Bee, riding back and placing himself at the head of one of his regiments that still maintained some of their order, shouted, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians. Follow Me!” He soon fell dead, shot as he was leading his troops toward the enemy. From them on Jackson and the brigade that he commanded would be known as “Stonewall.”
Jackson was able to hold firm on Henry Hill. Beauregard arrived to direct the situation on the spot, while Johnston worked to bring reinforcements to the left as fast as possible. Fighting continued for three hours on Henry Hill. Under heavy fire, there were multiple charges back and forth across the field. A charge of the Stonewall Brigade captured Rickett’s and Griffin’s batteries. JEB Stuart’s cavalry broke an enemy line with a charge. There was much confusion between the troops. Many Confederates wore blue, and the Stars and Bars hanging limp on the flagstaff, looked much like the Stars and Stripes.
Finally between 4:00 and 4:30 the Union line began a full out retreat. The Confedeate line on Henry Hill had held firm, and with the arrival of fresh troops from Early’s Brigade, and Kirby Smith’s Brigade, which came right off the trains from the Shenandoah Valley, they were able to push forward. The Northerners fled with cries of “The enemy is upon us! We shall all be taken!” McDowell made the mistake of waiting to long to order a retreat. If he had not held on until the last minute, he could have made an orderly retreat. But instead there was a rout all the way to Washington. One man described it thus:
“Then a scene of confusion ensued which beggars description. Cavalry horses with out riders, artillery horses disengaged from the guns with traces flying, wrecked baggage-wagons, and pieces of artillery drawn by six horses without drivers, flying at their utmost speed and whacking against other vehicles…. The rush produced more noise than a hurricane at sea.”
The Confederates did not pursue far. They were worn out, and the next day rain turned the road into mud. Had this not occurred, they may have been able to quickly end the war by capturing Washington and forcing the North to let them go. But instead, not much happened for the next few months. Both sides recognized that the war would not be as quick as they thought. They began to see that it would be long and bloody, and well trained, professional soldiers would be needed.
Although he was not the Confederate supreme commander, Beauregard received the praise for the victory at Bull Run. Although it was Johnston who had the responsibility and really ran the battle, Beauregard was a much more romantic figure. The stories of him riding along the lines and leading charges against the North were much more appealing than Johnston sending orders and bringing up reinforcements.
So why did this battle turn out the way it did? The Confederates were victorious not because of wise strategic decisions made by the generals. Their plan had failed miserably, but they fought hard and stumbled upon strong positions such as Henry Hill. The Union were unsuccessful because they were tired from their long march, and did not have the superiority they had hoped for because Johnston had arrived to reinforce Beauregard. McDowell did not really do that bad of a job. But he relied on green troops and green officers who did not know how a battle should be fought. Sherman, who later became one of the leading Northern generals, said this, “Bull Run Battle was lost by us not from want of combination, strategy or tactics, but because our army was green as grass.” “[It] was one of the best planned battles of the war, but one of the worst-fought. Both armies were fairly defeated, and whichever stood fast the other would have run.

Post from Civil War 150th Blog.

Covering the Battle of Bull Run

July 20, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

Stonewall Jackson at the 1961 Manassas reenactment

Check back tomorrow for our coverage of the Battle of Bull Run, the first major battle of the Civil War. We will have several posts throughout the day covering the flow of the battle. Also check out our Twitter account, which will have more live updates from the battle. Look out next week for pictures and video from the reenactment in Manassas this weekend.

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Preparations for Battle at Bull Run

July 20, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

The Positions of the armies on July 18th.

This morning, General Johnston joined Beauregard’s army along the Bull Run. He had been ordered to leave the Shenandoah Valley and his opponents there behind, and bring his army to unite with Beauregard to crush McDowell. He was able to do this by moving quickly on the railroads, and because of the inattentiveness of his opponent, Patterson.

Gen. Joseph E. Johnston

Johnston was a full general, and Beauregard was only a brigadier, so Johnston took command of the army. But since Beauregard was familiar with the situation, he let him make many of the important decisions, while still retaining a hand in the direction of the events. Johnston approved a plan to attack McDowell on the Union left the next morning. Orders were sent out to alert the commanders of what they needed to do. However, the complicated plan was not relayed well. The orders were unclear, and many were not delivered at all. The next day would show the extent to which the Confederate army was ready to make the attack.

Gen. Irvin McDowell

While Johnston and Beauregard were preparing their plans, McDowell was ordering an attack as well. Through the noise of trains coming into the Confederate camp, he guessed correctly that Johnston had arrived with the army of the Shenandoah. He did not wish to try again on the Confederate right at Blackburn’s Ford, where Tyler had been repulsed a few days before. Instead, he chose to attack on the Confederate left. So both armies planned to attack the other’s left the next morning. It was apparent that the next day could bring the battle that would decide the course of the war.

Post from Civil War 150th Blog.