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Battle of Carnifex Ferry

September 10, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

House on the Battlefield

Today the Battle of Carnifex Ferry orrcured in West Virginia. General Robert E. Lee, the military secretary of Jefferson Davis, had been sent by him to what is now West Virginia. The Confederate commanders in Virginia were very divided. Most of them were politicians, including Henry Wise, a former governor of Virginia. Lee had difficulty getting them to work together to hold back the Federal advances. General Henry Floyd determined to make a stand at Carnifex Ferry against an advancing Federal column under Rosecrans. Floyd’s men were position in a fortified camp. Roscrans attacked in the afternoon, and sent some of his troops in a flanking movement. By dark they had not driven the Confederates back, so Rosecrans ordered his men to fall back. They had lost 17 killed and 141 wounded. Floyd retreated during the night, claiming a brilliant victory.

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Civil War Tour

September 7, 2011 with 1 Comment and Posted in Uncategorized by

Henry House, Manassas Battlefield

This week we are on a tour of Civil War sites in Virginia. If you want to see pictures from each day, check out our other blog.

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Kentucky’s Neutrality Violated

September 4, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

When the crisis over secession had occurred earlier in 1861, Kentucky could not make a choice. It was a border state, and their sympathies were divided between North and South. So they issued a Declaration of Neutrality, declaring that they would remain aloof from the Civil War which was occurring.

This neutrality was preserved for several months, but it came to an end 150 years ago today. The Confederate General Polk ordered troops to occupy Columbus, on the Mississippi River. Union gun boats were gathering in the area, and he gave as reason for the movement the fact that the town needed to be defended. In response to this movement the Union commanders ordered General Grant to occupy Paducah. The Civil War in Kentucky had officially begun.

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Lincoln Repeals Fremont’s Proclamation

September 2, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

John C. Fremont

On August 30th, General John C. Fremont issued a proclamation for the forces under his command which involved the freeing of the Southern slaves and killing prisoners in retaliation. Lincoln was not ready at that time to free the slaves. So he sent this message to Fremont ordering him to modify his proclamation, telling him his reasons for doing so.

WASHINGTON, D. C., September 2, 1861. 

Major-General FRÉMONT:
MY DEAR SIR: Two points in your proclamation of August 30 give me some anxiety:
First. Should you shoot a man, according to the proclamation, the Confederates would very certainly shoot our best men in their hands in retaliation; and so, man for man, indefinitely. It is, therefore, my order that you allow no man to be shot under the proclamation without first having my approbation or consent.

Second. I think there is great danger that the closing paragraph, in relation to the confiscation of property and the liberating slaves of traitorous owners, will alarm our Southern Union friends and turn them against us; perhaps ruin our rather fair prospect for Kentucky. Allow me, therefore, to ask that you will, as of your own motion, modify that paragraph so as to conform to the first and fourth sections of the act of Congress entitled “An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes,” approved August 6, 1861, and a copy of which act I herewith send you.

This letter is written in a spirit of caution and not of censure. I send it by special messenger, in order that it may certainly and speedily reach you.

Yours, very truly,

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Frémont Proclaims the South’s Slaves Free

August 30, 2011 with No Comments and Posted in Uncategorized by

John C. Fremont

Today John C. Frémont issued a proclamation declaring the slaves in his military district free. Frémont was a famous explorer, and earned the name “The Pathfinder” for mapping a trail across the Rocky Mountains. Although he was from Georgia, he was the first presidential candidate of the Republican party. The Republican party was founded on the idea of opposing slavery. He lost the election, but four years later Lincoln won the election. Frémont was appointed a Major General, and appointed commander of the Department of the West, with his attention focused on the fighting in Missouri. Today Frémont issued a proclamation declaring martial law in Missouri. This was the most controversial part:

All persons who shall be taken with arms in their hands, within these lines, shall be tried by Court Martial, and, if found guilty, will be shot. The property, real and personal, of all persons in the State of Missouri, who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall be directly proven to have taken active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use, and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free men.

Abraham Lincoln

The most debated part was saying the Confederates’ slaves would be freed. As we will see, Lincoln was not ready for this. Although he would release a similar Emancipation Proclamation less than a year and a half later, at the time he wrote:

You speak of [Fremont’s proclamation] as being the only means of saving the government. On the contrary it is itself the surrender of the government. Can it be pretended that it is any longer the government of the U.S.—any government of Constitution and laws,—wherein a General, or a President, may make permanent rules of property by proclamation?

I do not say Congress might not with propriety pass a law, on the point, just such as General Fremont proclaimed …What I object to, is, that I as President, shall expressly or impliedly seize and exercise the permanent legislative functions of the government.

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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.

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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

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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

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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,”

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