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150 Years Ago: Friday, November 21, 1862

James A. Seddon, 1860'sSource: Library of Congress

James A. Seddon, 1860’s
Source: Library of Congress

It is the President’s prerogative to change his mind, and that applies even to C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis. Though he had named Gustavus W. Smith as Secretary of War four days ago, today he changes his mind and appoints James A. Seddon to take his place. Seddon does not come from a military background; instead, he’s a lawyer and occasional politician from Richmond, Virginia. While he had originally championed peace between the northern and southern states back in 1861, he would later that year serve as a member of the Provisional Confederate Congress. He has had issues with poor health in the past, but Davis needs someone with strong diplomatic skills to handle generals and anti-Davis bureaucrats. Most importantly, Seddon has the personality to work with someone as strong willed as Davis.

In Fredericksburg, both North and South are preparing for an engagement. While Union soldiers wait for pontoon boats to arrive, they are left watching the Confederates occupy the hills beyond Fredericksburg while working to make them impregnable. In the meantime, U.S. General Ambrose Burnside sends Brigadier General Marsena Patrick with a message across the Rappahannock River to Montgomery Slaughter, the mayor of Fredericksburg, demanding that the city surrender or else he will will open fire and shell the town:

Under cover of the houses of your city, shots have been fired upon the troops of my command. Your mills and manufactories are furnishing provisions and the material for clothing for armed bodies in rebellion against the Government of the United States. Your railroads and other means of transportation are removing supplies to the depots of such troops. This condition of things must terminate, and, by direction of General Burnside, I accordingly demand the surrender of the city into my hands, as the representative of the Government of the United States, at or before 5 o’clock this afternoon.

C.S.A. Colonel William A. Ball, who commands the troops in the city, sends the message on to C.S.A. General James Longstreet. By now General Robert E. Lee has arrived; he and Longstreet make the decision to pull their troops out of town, yet send back correspondence with the threat that any attempts by the Union to occupy the town will be resisted. Fredericksburg citizens are quickly notified and evacuated, forming a long train of refugees out of town and behind protection of the Confederate lines.

On the Western front, Major Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman meet in Columbus, Kentucky to discuss strategy in how to obtain the strategic Mississippi port of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Grant will move his army utilizing the railroad through Holly Springs, Mississippi; Sherman will move south as the right wing of Grant’s army. Before they reach Vicksburg they have a lot of work to accomplish. One key goal will be to take control of enemy railroads throughout the state.

The Richmond Daily Dispatch and other southern papers continue to take a great interest in the politics and strategic plans of the North. Today they focus their attention on former head of the Army of the Potomac, George B. McClellan:

Demolishing their Idols.

Since this war commenced, the Yankees have created military idols, and then annihilated them. …

Whilst never regarding McClellan as a “Young Napoleon,” he unquestionably understood the capabilities of his men, and the obstacles he had to encounter. Much better than the rabble of the North or their besotted Government. We have never been those who regarded the Yankees as cowards, but they have not the military aptitude of the Southern people and cannot be improvised into soldiers. They are unfamiliar by education both with the idea of danger and the use of arms. They were called upon to confront men who had been accustomed to both from their cradle and who are fighting in the holiest cause for which men ever drew a sword. The first battle of Manassas had demonstrated that after three months incessant drilling they were unable to cope with one-third their number of Southern volunteers. Even the best regulars of their old army were on that occasion annihilated. …

McClellan will have his revenge. All that the South has done in former battles will be nothing to the effort she will make under the impetus of Lincoln’s proclamation — the most heroic struggle that the world has over witnessed will occur when this city is again assaulted by the Yankee legions. The South will go to the battle as joyously as to a bridal, and, with the blessing of Heaven, she will not only save her liberties and her capital, but will save the North from herself.

Daily Civil War Calendar

November 2012

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