155 years ago today – April 12, 1861 – the first shot of the Civil War rang out in Fort Sumter, South Carolina. “The Civil War has now begun in earnest,” Harper’s Weekly would later tell its readers.
This was not a war started in haste. The founding fathers had managed to set aside the issue of slavery in order to create unity between the thirteen colonies. The thought was that it would eventually die a slow death; by 1800 importation of slaves had nearly ceased & the slave population was around 694,000. With the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, it allowed Southern farmers to process more cotton; with slave labor, it also allowed them to also make bigger profits. By 1860 there were 3.95 million slaves in the United States, which was 12% of the total population; in the South, slaves accounted for 43% of their population.
When the Battle of Fort Sumter occurred, only seven southern states had seceded from the Union. Later Virginia (including West Virginia, though in 1863 they were admitted as a new state to the Union), Tennessee, Arkansas & North Carolina would also secede and join the Confederate States of America. Three states would maintain neutrality – Maryland, Kentucky & Missouri – though thousands of people served either the northern or southern cause.
While the subject of slavery fueled the flames for war, in the end it came down to State’s rights vs. National government. Ever since the United States was formed, there had been differences in opinion over what type of control national government should have. Initially there was great focus on State and Local governments, with the national government role evolving and expanding with each election. Most disagreements were on things such as tariffs and sectionalism (looking at the nation as sections, with most of the power being held in the North at the time of the war). Slavery played a large role as it was tied into the Southern economy, but it was not the sole reason for secession.
Secession was something many states throughout the United States had explored at various times through its history. Other places around the world had separated from an initial government; a break did not necessarily have to mean war. The Southern states thought that they had every right to break away & form their own union; to them, it was no different than when the 13 colonies sought to break their ties to England. It was the position of the Northern leaders that the South did not have this right. Based on these two very different stances, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and C.S.A. Provisional President Jefferson Davis did what was in the best interest of their countries for the people they represented.
It’s important to keep in mind that in 1861, the country was quite vast, but travel was limited for most people. There was not a large sense of U.S. patriotism or even a strong connection. When people spoke of home, it was often in reference to their state. It is why people like Robert E. Lee would leave the U.S military and his “country” to fight for his home state of Virginia – which will soon become a part of the Confederate States of America.
When the first shot rang out at Fort Sumter, many understood that this meant the start of something. Very few predicted it would be the start of a four year war, with 1,100,000 casualties, 620,000 of them being killed from battle wounds or from illness. Even those in the most powerful of positions, such as U.S. President Lincoln, thought this would be the beginning of a “90 day war,” to be mostly fought by volunteers in an effort to put an end to a small “rebellion.” A few people, one of them being future U.S. General William T. Sherman, understood that this was more than a rebellion, and would write to his brother, U.S. Senator John Sherman (Ohio): “I still think it is to be a long war – very long – much longer than any Politician thinks.”
U.S. General Robert Anderson and his men manage to survive the first day of Confederate attacks, led by C.S.A. General P.G.T. Beauregard, who years before had been a student of Anderson’s at West Point. The bombardment of the fort will continue throughout the night.
As President-elect Abraham Lincoln makes his way from Buffalo to Albany, New York, the city of Baltimore begins a two day convention to determine whether they will secede from the United States and join the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.). Also in Baltimore, Pinkerton detective Harry Davies has dinner with Otis Hillard, a man loyal to the Southern cause. Hillard tells Davies that the group of “Southern patriots” that he is a part of might soon “draw lots to see who will kill Lincoln,” boasting that he would do it willingly if the task fell to him. With only days left before Lincoln arrives in Baltimore, Davies forcefully demands that he wants to be a part of the next meeting of the group, so he can be given the “opportunity to immortalize himself.”Hillard trusts Davies, and will see what he can do about getting him in the group.
In Montgomery, Alabama in front of the statehouse portico, Jefferson Davis is sworn in as the Provisional President of the C.S.A. He had waited until the last 24 hours to write his inaugural address, and is tired from his week long journey. He unfolds a thin sheaf of paper and reads his address in a strong, clear baritone voice. He is finished in under 15 minutes. Many find disappointment with it, not finding a single memorable idea or phrase. Even Davis’s supporters will rarely quote it. Unlike his farewell speech to the U.S. Senate in January, it contains no call to defend slavery.
Gentlemen of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, Friends and Fellow-Citizens:
Called to the difficult and responsible station of Chief Executive of the Provisional Government which you have instituted, I approach the discharge of the duties assigned to me with an humble distrust of my abilities, but with a sustaining confidence in the wisdom of those who are to guide and to aid me in the administration of public affairs, and an abiding faith in the virtue and patriotism of the people.
Looking forward to the speedy establishment of a permanent government to take the place of this, and which by its greater moral and physical power will be better able to combat with the many difficulties which arise from the conflicting interests of separate nations, I enter upon the duties of the office to which I have been chosen with the hope that the beginning of our career as a Confederacy may not be obstructed by hostile opposition to our enjoyment of the separate existence and independence which we have asserted, and, with the blessing of Providence, intend to maintain. Our present condition, achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations, illustrates the American idea that governments rest upon the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish governments whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established.
The declared purpose of the compact of Union from which we have withdrawn was “to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity;” and when, in the judgment of the sovereign States now composing this Confederacy, it had been perverted from the purposes for which it was ordained, and had ceased to answer the ends for which it was established, a peaceful appeal to the ballot-box declared that so far as they were concerned, the government created by that compact should cease to exist. In this they merely asserted a right which the Declaration of Independence of 1776 had defined to be inalienable; of the time and occasion for its exercise, they, as sovereigns, were the final judges, each for itself. The impartial and enlightened verdict of mankind will vindicate the rectitude of our conduct, and He who knows the hearts of men will judge of the sincerity with which we labored to preserve the Government of our fathers in its spirit. The right solemnly proclaimed at the birth of the States, and which has been affirmed and reaffirmed in the bills of rights of States subsequently admitted into the Union of 1789, undeniably recognize in the people the power to resume the authority delegated for the purposes of government. Thus the sovereign States here represented proceeded to form this Confederacy, and it is by abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution. They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government has remained, the rights of person and property have not been disturbed. The agent through whom they communicated with foreign nations is changed, but this does not necessarily interrupt their international relations.
Sustained by the consciousness that the transition from the former Union to the present Confederacy has not proceeded from a disregard on our part of just obligations, or any failure to perform every constitutional duty, moved by no interest or passion to invade the rights of others, anxious to cultivate peace and commerce with all nations, if we may not hope to avoid war, we may at least expect that posterity will acquit us of having needlessly engaged in it. Doubly justified by the absence of wrong on our part, and by wanton aggression on the part of others, there can be no cause to doubt that the courage and patriotism of the people of the Confederate States will be found equal to any measures of defense which honor and security may require.
An agricultural people, whose chief interest is the export of a commodity required in every manufacturing country, our true policy is peace, and the freest trade which our necessities will permit. It is alike our interest, and that of all those to whom we would sell and from whom we would buy, that there should be the fewest practicable restrictions upon the interchange of commodities. There can be but little rivalry between ours and any manufacturing or navigating community, such as the Northeastern States of the American Union. It must follow, therefore, that a mutual interest would invite good will and kind offices. If, however, passion or the lust of dominion should cloud the judgment or inflame the ambition of those States, we must prepare to meet the emergency and to maintain, by the final arbitrament of the sword, the position which we have assumed among the nations of the earth. We have entered upon the career of independence, and it must be inflexibly pursued. Through many years of controversy with our late associates, the Northern States, we have vainly endeavored to secure tranquility, and to obtain respect for the rights to which we were entitled. As a necessity, not a choice, we have resorted to the remedy of separation; and henceforth our energies must be directed to the conduct of our own affairs, and the perpetuity of the Confederacy which we have formed. If a just perception of mutual interest shall permit us peaceably to pursue our separate political career, my most earnest desire will have been fulfilled. But, if this be denied to us, and the integrity of our territory and jurisdiction be assailed, it will but remain for us, with firm resolve, to appeal to arms and invoke the blessings of Providence on a just cause.
As a consequence of our new condition and with a view to meet anticipated wants, it will be necessary to provide for the speedy and efficient organization of branches of the executive department, having special charge of foreign intercourse, finance, military affairs, and the postal service.
For purposes of defense, the Confederate States may, under ordinary circumstances, rely mainly upon their militia, but it is deemed advisable, in the present condition of affairs, that there should be a well-instructed and disciplined army, more numerous than would usually be required on a peace establishment. I also suggest that for the protection of our harbors and commerce on the high seas a navy adapted to those objects will be required. These necessities have doubtless engaged the attention of Congress.
With a Constitution differing only from that of our fathers in so far as it is explanatory of their well-known intent, freed from the sectional conflicts which have interfered with the pursuit of the general welfare, it is not unreasonable to expect that States from which we have recently parted may seek to unite their fortunes with ours under the government which we have instituted. For this your Constitution makes adequate provision; but beyond this, if I mistake not the judgment and will of the people, a reunion with the States from which we have separated is neither practicable nor desirable. To increase the power, develop the resources, and promote the happiness of a confederacy, it is requisite that there should be so much of homogeneity that the welfare of every portion shall be the aim of the whole. Where this does not exist, antagonisms are engendered which must and should result in separation.
Actuated solely by the desire to preserve our own rights and promote our own welfare, the separation of the Confederate States has been marked by no aggression upon others and followed by no domestic convulsion. Our industrial pursuits have received no check. The cultivation of our fields has progressed as heretofore, and even should we be involved in war there would be no considerable diminution in the production of the staples which have constituted our exports and in which the commercial world has an interest scarcely less than our own. This common interest of the producer and consumer can only be interrupted by an exterior force which should obstruct its transmission to foreign markets–a course of conduct which would be as unjust toward us as it would be detrimental to manufacturing and commercial interests abroad. Should reason guide the action of the Government from which we have separated, a policy so detrimental to the civilized world, the Northern States included, could not be dictated by even the strongest desire to inflict injury upon us; but otherwise a terrible responsibility will rest upon it, and the suffering of millions will bear testimony to the folly and wickedness of our aggressors. In the meantime there will remain to us, besides the ordinary means before suggested, the well-known resources for retaliation upon the commerce of an enemy.
Experience in public stations, of subordinate grade to this which your kindness has conferred, has taught me that care and toil and disappointment are the price of official elevation. You will see many errors to forgive, many deficiencies to tolerate, but you shall not find in me either a want of zeal or fidelity to the cause that is to me highest in hope and of most enduring affection. Your generosity has bestowed upon me an undeserved distinction, one which I neither sought nor desired. Upon the continuance of that sentiment and upon your wisdom and patriotism I rely to direct and support me in the performance of the duty required at my hands.
We have changed the constituent parts, but not the system of our Government. The Constitution formed by our fathers is that of these Confederate States, in their exposition of it, and in the judicial construction it has received, we have a light which reveals its true meaning.
Thus instructed as to the just interpretation of the instrument, and ever remembering that all offices are but trusts held for the people, and that delegated powers are to be strictly construed, I will hope, by due diligence in the performance of my duties, though I may disappoint your expectations, yet to retain, when retiring, something of the good will and confidence which welcome my entrance into office.
It is joyous, in the midst of perilous times, to look around upon a people united in heart, where one purpose of high resolve animates and actuates the whole–where the sacrifices to be made are not weighed in the balance against honor and right and liberty and equality. Obstacles may retard, they cannot long prevent the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice, and sustained by a virtuous people. Reverently let us invoke the God of our fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which, by his blessing, they were able to vindicate, establish and transmit to their posterity, and with a continuance of His favor, ever gratefully acknowledged, we may hopefully look forward to success, to peace, and to prosperity.
In Montgomery, Alabama, the Provisional President-elect arrives at the new capital of the Confederacy by train. Jefferson Davis had been appointed into the position by the Confederate Congress, and has an impressive resume: A West Point graduate, a veteran of the Black Hawk and Mexican-American Wars, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, former U.S. Secretary of War, and a former U.S. Senator from Mississippi. He will be sworn in tomorrow.
In Baltimore, detective Allan Pinkerton is finally seeing the pieces coming together. The city, with it’s population over more than 200,000, is the country’s fourth largest city and a major port. Maryland has a large amount of anti-Northern sentiment; the Maryland legislature is still debating whether to join the Confederacy.
Pinkerton, a Scottish immigrant who had been the first official detective for the city of Chicago, had started his own detective agency in Chicago. At the request of Samuel Morse Felton, president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, Pinkerton had come to Baltimore the first week of February to uncover any potential threats against U.S. President-elect Abraham Lincoln, who is to arrive in the city on February 23. He and his operatives take rooms at a boarding house near the Camden Street train station. Pinkerton creates a cover identify: John H. Hutchinson, a Southern stockbroker who is new to town. He even secures offices in a large building at 44 South Street, where he befriends businessman James Luckett. During a discussion about Lincoln’s journey, Luckett states that “He may pass through quietly, but I doubt it.” Taking advantage of the opportunity, Pinkerton pulls out his wallet and gives him $25 towards the “patriotic cause.” He also warns Luckett to “be cautious in talking with outsiders.”
Pinkerton’s ploy worked, and Luckett soon tells him about a handful of “Southern patriots,” led by Captain Cypriano Ferrandini. Ferrandini is an immigrant from Corsica, and is a barber whose shop is is the basement of Barnum’s Hotel. Luckett informs him that Ferrandini has a plan: That he will see to it that Lincoln never reaches Washington, and never becomes President. “Every Southern Rights man has confidence in Ferrandini,” he told a stunned Pinkerton.
Pinkerton has been working to piece together reports and rumors. So far, he has determined that a vast crowd will meet Lincoln at the Calvert Street depot. Only a small force of police will be stationed, and when the President-elect arrives someone will create a disturbance; while the police are dealing with that, it will be an easy task for someone to shoot the President and even escape. There is a man by the name of Otis Hillard, who is one of Ferrandini’s followers. Pinkerton believes that Hillard knows the key details that he is missing. It is Pinkerton’s good fortune that one of his detectives, Harry Davies, has already become good friends with Hillard during their short time in the city. It is time for Davies to take his friendship even further with Hillard, and attempt to join Ferrandini’s group.
In Buffalo, New York, it is a day of rest for Lincoln. He attends a local Unitarian church with former (13th) President Millard Fillmore. After going back to the American Hotel for Mrs. Lincoln, Fillmore takes them to his home to dine. That afternoon, Lincoln returns and receives friends; he does not give any speeches. After supper with his family, he attends a service by an Indian preacher, Father John Beason.
It is the fifth day of the President-elect’s inaugural train trip to from Springfield, Illinois to Washington City. President-elect Abraham Lincoln starts his morning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Monongahela House, the most luxurious hotel in the city, with it’s carpeting, fine paneling, and gold mirrors. He spends the night in their best room: The Prince of Wales room, named after the future King Edward VII who had stayed here a year earlier. From his room, Lincoln can view the iron and steel mills, as well as The Point, where where the Monongahela met the Allegheny and formed the Ohio River.
From the balcony in his room, he addresses the people of Pittsburgh, giving much of the same speech he did two days ago in Columbus. “There is no crisis, excepting such a one as may be gotten up at anytime by turbulent men, aided by designing politicians.” He also spends a considerable amount of time talking about the issue of a protective tariff, which many thought would help U.S. manufacturers and workers. The press will later express disappointment that such a long speech didn’t offer more substance when it comes to the most pressing issues of secession.
After his speech, Lincoln passes through crowds that are “almost impenetrable,” which displays enthusiasm that “exceeded anything ever before witnessed,” the local papers would report. He boards the train with the rest of his party, and they travel back west into Ohio.
In Montgomery, Alabama, the provisional Confederate government, has assumed responsibility for questions concerning forts, arsenals, and other federal property within the states of the Confederacy. Today they resolve that “Immediate steps should be taken to obtain possession of forts Sumter (South Carolina) and Pickens (Florida), either by negotiations or force.” They authorize Confederate President-elect Jefferson Davis to carry the resolution into effect.
Throughout northeast Ohio, Lincoln’s train makes a few stops in smaller cities along their route. Lincoln keeps his words to the waiting crowds very brief, explaining that he is hoarse. As they stop for a meal in Alliance, Ohio, an energetic gun salute goes off near where the Lincoln family is eating. The explosion shatters windows, and even covers Mary Lincoln’s face in pieces of glass. Mary, not always known to be calm, handles the situation gracefully. The party continues on, and reaches Cleveland, Ohio in the late afternoon, where they arrive in the midst of a rain and snow storm.
The local paper (and anti-Lincoln, Democrat newspaper), the Cleveland Plain Dealer, gives their readers a small glimpse into the scene, including some comments made by an unnamed prominent Republican politician:
Mr. Lincoln in Cleveland.
The trains yesterday brought multitudes of people to the city, and in addition the country round about poured in its crowds in wagons, on horseback and on foot, drawn by curiosity to see the “Rail Splitter.” By three o’clock in the afternoon, Euclid street was alive with teams and people, moving toward the Euclid street depot. The mud was terrible, and during a portion of the afternoon it alternately rained and snowed. A great many residences on Euclid street were handsomely decorated with flags and various devices. While riding to the depot we were generally amused by the comments of a prominent Republican politician, as his eye caught sight of the various flags. A number of aspirants for offices in the gift of the President reside on Euclid street. The comments of the Republican ran about as follows: “That big flag means something. It must be a bid for U. S. Attorneyship. Pretty well for you, old fellow. Such a long pole as that ought to knock the persimons [sic]. Just see the flags on Mr. —‘s house. That means nothing less than a Marshalship. Don’t you wish you may get it.—That’s right. Hang your banners on the outer walls. If LINCOLN can’t read ‘post-office’ there he must b [sic] eblind [sic] as a bat. There is a modest little flag. Guess that man doesn’t want anything, or perhaps he would be satisfied with a small Consulship. Band of music! A whole string of flags ! Wonder what he is after,” etc.
The trip from the train depot to the hotel is two miles, mostly along Euclid street (now Avenue). Thousands of people line the path to see a glimpse of the President-elect. When Lincoln arrives at his hotel, The Weddell House, he delivers a speech to approximately 10,000 people. This time, he focuses his words on the national crisis: “I think that there is no occasion for any excitement. The crisis, as it is called, is altogether an artificial crisis.”
Abraham and his wife Mary are thrown separate, grand receptions that evening, and return to their rooms at 10pm.
U.S. President-elect Abraham Lincoln and his family leave Cincinnati, Ohio at 9:00 a.m., and begin their five-hour journey by train to Columbus, Ohio. It is day three of his thirteen day inaugural journey from Springfield, Illinois to Washington City.
Fifteen minutes into their journey, a live bomb is discovered in Lincoln’s train car. It is set to go off at 9:30am. It is disposed of safely, with no injury to its intended target.
Just like the previous two days, the train stops in many small towns along the way. Lincoln is greeted by large, enthusiastic crowds of well-wishers, and the occasional roar of celebratory cannon fire. In Columbus, a crowd of 50,000 are there to greet him.
After a military parade escort to the Ohio Statehouse, Lincoln addresses a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly. “It is true, as has been said by the president of the Senate, that very great responsibility rests upon me in the position to which the votes of the American people have called me,” he tells the legislature. “I am deeply sensible of that weighty responsibility.”
Afterwards, Lincoln meets with Ohio Governor William Dennison Jr. in his Statehouse office, where they discuss the events that have unfolded in recent months. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina have already seceded. Texas looks like they may be next to leave. The divided state of Virginia has assembled two conventions in the last month: One to discuss secession, and the other that is Pro-Union. Today, former U.S. President John Tyler and former Virginia governor Henry Wise are meeting for the first time at Virginia’s secessionist convention. Four days earlier, the newly formed Confederate States of America had named former U.S. Senator Jefferson Davis as President of the Provisional Confederate Government, whose chosen capital is Montgomery, Alabama.
Around 4pm, a messenger arrives with news for Lincoln from the Electoral College, which had been meeting for the last two days in Washington City. U.S. General Winfield Scott had to reinforce the city so the meeting could go on as planned, due to fears that southern sympathizers would try to sabotage the vote.
Lincoln, a Republican, receives 180 electoral votes, all in the northern, non-slaveholding states, including California and Oregon. Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge receives 72 votes from most of the southern states, along with the border state of Maryland; he does not win his own home state of Kentucky. Kentucky, along with Virginia and Tennessee, go to John Bell, a Constitutional Union Party candidate, who receives 39 electoral votes. Stephen A. Douglas, a northern Democrat, only receives 12 electoral votes, having only won Missouri and New Jersey. After the electoral votes are counted, current Vice-president John C. Breckinridge declares Lincoln the winner of the Election of 1860.
The message to Lincoln reads: “The votes were counted peaceably. You are elected.”
“How does it look now?“, reads U.S. Commanding General Joseph Hooker. The telegram in his hands is from President Abraham Lincoln, who, like every Spring since the war started, is highly anxious and high strung now that Winter is behind them. With the warmer weather, the Army of the Potomac should be on the move. But at the beginning of each Spring they must deal with rising rivers from the melting snow and consistent rains, which often hinder their movements. The last major move the Union army made in the Eastern theater of war was at Fredericksburg last December, under U.S. Major General Ambrose Burnside. It had resulted in a major loss that has challenged the will of the people in the North to continue the war and has diminished the power of the United States on an international level. With Hooker now in charge, Lincoln has been sending communications that he no longer wants constant maneuvering of positions. He wants a battle and he wants it won. The Union needs a major victory.
It just so happens that Hooker has just begun moving his troops today, in what he considers a major plan to surprise C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee and the majority of his troops in the Fredericksburg area. Hooker is hoping to swing around Lee and cut off their supply lines from Richmond, and to turn the Confederate left flank. Hooker isn’t looking for a repeat battle at Fredericksburg; he was against the move back in December as he saw Lee’s troops on the high ground behind the stone wall protecting them. He has his own plans for success.
After days of waiting for the water levels to lower, Hooker’s Fifth, Eleventh and Twelfth Corps cross the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers above Fredericksburg. Union cavalry under Major General George Stoneman begins a long distance raid against Lee’s supply lines that Hooker is hoping will be successful and also preoccupy some of Lee’s troops.
The man who had once been a friend of U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant and had met with him on surrender terms back in February 1862 at Fort Donelson, Tennessee is promoted today by C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis. Major General Simon Buckner, who has spent the last six months in command of the District of the Gulf and has been in charge of the defenses in Mobile, Alabama, has been assigned command of the Department of East Tennessee. He will make arrangements to make the move to Knoxville, where he will work closely under C.S.A. General Braxton Bragg, who he has worked with before and dislikes as a General. In fact, Buckner had been one of many to publicly denounce Bragg’s performance during his Fall campaign in Kentucky last year, which resulted in Bragg’s army abandoning any future invasion of Kentucky even after a successful fight in Perryville in October.
Two days ago Grant had given specific orders for his men to be ready to take Grand Gulf, Mississippi fortifications in a strategic move to take the final target of Vicksburg. Yesterday Grant had arrived at U.S. Major General John McClernand’s camp only to find it highly disorganized and not at all working on his orders to prepare for the move today. McClernand had steamers and transports that were still scattered freely along the river and bayous, unable to support the move as planned. The two divisions that were to board the steamers were stuck on land. Instead of following Grant’s orders of preparation, McClernand staged a review of a single brigade for his visiting friend, Illinois Governor Richard Yates. McClernand’s men listen to a long and splendid motivational speech from Yates, followed by one from McClernand. At the end, McClernand has his artillery fire a salute to the Governor using ammunition that was to be saved to fight the enemy per Grant’s orders, as they were in very low supply. McClernand couldn’t have made a more obvious statement to Grant that he did not only disagree with his plan, but disrespected him as a leader. This was not new to Grant, who has been struggling with McClernand for months, with McClernand feeling that he should be the one in charge of the Vicksburg campaign. Though Yates has strong political power, Lincoln has the final say and he believes in Grant’s abilities.
Grant again sends specific, written orders to McClernand as to what he wants done today: McClernand’s troops are to board and await orders to move via steamers to a point opposite Grand Gulf. The Navy will reduce whatever batteries the Confederates have in place, and then McClernand’s men will be ferried to the Mississippi shore, where they are to unload from the steamers and storm up the bluffs, capturing the Confederate fortifications. Men are to take only three days supply of rations; Grant wants everyone traveling light and with only the bare necessities. He needs his men to be able to move quickly.
Instead of following Grant’s orders, McClernand again has other ideas. Instead of taking the troops via water, he wants to take an open road to the same point opposite Grand Gulf, which leads to a little village called Hard Times. Grant allows a reconnaissance party to see if roads are passable, and instead they find Confederate cavalry. As McClernand still does not have enough transports to board his men, Grant seizes the opportunity and orders the last two of McClernand’s divisions to drive the Confederates out and take the village of Hard Times. There will be no move today against Grand Gulf but at least the Union army can accomplish something.
Wanting to create a diversion, Grant turns his attention to his most trusted fellow officer, U.S. Major William T. Sherman, who is the furthest north and closest to Vicksburg. He sends a note to Sherman:
“If you think it advisable, you may make a reconnaissance of Haynes’ Bluff, taking as much force and as many steamers as you like. The effect of a heavy demonstration in that direction would be good so far as the enemy are concerned, but I am loath to order it, because it would be so hard to make our own troops understand that only a demonstration was intended, and our people at home would characterize it as a repulse. I therefore leave it to you whether to make such a demonstration. Publish your order beforehand, stating that a reconnaissance in force is to be made for the purpose of calling off the enemy’s attention from our movements south of Vicksburg, and not with any expectation of attacking.”
The orders Sherman receive give him a lot of leeway and decision making power. But Grant trusts him fully. Sherman immediately swings into action. To cover the road from Milliken’s Bend to New Carthage, he detaches a division under Major General Frederick Steele. Sherman reveals to Steele that “General Grant directs me to control matters at this end.” Sherman knows he has Grant’s trust and that fuels him; it gives him confidence in his own abilities, which is something he lacked at the beginning of the war.
The move Grant wanted to make today against Grand Gulf will have to wait until tomorrow. He only hopes that this delay has not given the Confederates time to repulse their attack. But in typical Grant fashion, he has still made moves and tried to take advantage of the delay as best he can. He understands that public and political perception is very important right now.
C.S.A. Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson sends another battle report to General Robert E. Lee, this time regarding the second Battle of Manassas (known as Bull Run in North) from last August. He once again praises the support of C.S.A. Major General and cavalry officer J.E.B. Stuart for his action on the field. His fondness for Stuart is very obvious; it’s a huge compliment coming from someone who does not often give such high praise so freely. Jackson closes with the following:
For these great and signal victories our sincere and humble thanks are due unto Almighty God. We should in all things acknowledge the hand of Him who reigns in heaven and rules among the armies of men. In view of the arduous labors and great privations the troops were called to endure and the isolated and perilous position which the command occupied while engaged with greatly-superior numbers of the enemy we can but express the grateful conviction of our mind that God was with us and gave to us the victory, and unto His holy name be the praise.
Today U.S. General Order No. 100 is published, which provides a specific code of conduct for soldiers and officers when dealing with Confederate prisoners of war and civilians. The idea behind the Orders had come from Francis Lieber, a Prussian immigrant born in Berlin whose three sons are serving in the military, though one had died in the Battle of Williamsburg, Virginia (also known as the Battle of Fort Magruder) almost a year ago on May 5, 1862. He had advised General-in-Chief Henry Halleck on the subject, and President Abraham Lincoln worked on the Order personally along with four generals and Lieber. It consists of 157 articles and establishes policies on the treatment of prisoners, civilians when found to be engaged in guerrilla warfare, exchanges, and flags of truce.
The Orders also address a crisis that was started by Emancipation of slaves in the rebellion (Confederate) states earlier in the year on January 1, which Confederate President Jefferson Davis has insisted is in violation of the customary rules of war. More importantly, Davis has dictated that the Confederate army treat black Union soldiers as criminals, not soldiers, and they are therefore subject to execution or re-enslavement if captured. The Orders, which would also be known as “The Lieber Code” and “Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field”, specifically defends the lawfulness of Emancipation under the laws of war and insists that those same laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of color among combatants.
The Orders are the considered to be the first of its kind. Up until today nothing like this has ever been published. It will stand the test of time, as the U.S., Europe and other nations will use it in the future as the foundation for rules of war as it is gradually applied and expanded internationally.
U.S. Major General John Reynold’s men are continuing their mission to Port Conway, Virginia. Along the way his two regiments, the 24th Michigan and 84th New York, completely surprise the Confederate cavalry led by one of their most praised officers, J.E.B. Stuart. Though C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee was used to Union efforts to distract them, he is still alarmed by what occurs. He writes to Stuart that “I am afraid the cavalry was negligent. They gave no alarm; did not fire a shot; lost some public horses and two wagons. The citizens gave the alarm. I desire the matter inquired into.”
In the meantime, the U.S. Army of the Potomac remains bogged down due to swollen streams from recent rains. U.S. Commanding General Joesph Hooker cannot move his men until they can cross. So for now they wait in camp, the men unaware of where Hooker will lead them next now that winter is over and they need to be back on the move. What was once thought to be nothing more than a 90 day war has now lasted more than two years, and in the Eastern Theater it seems like little progress has been made in the goals of capturing the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia or obtaining the surrender of Lee’s army.
The Confederacy, like any government during war – including the U.S. government – is having difficulty raising money to keep the war in progress. Pay for the men, food, clothes, weapons, ammunition, etc.; this all costs a great deal of money. Taxes have already been put in place but collection has been difficult. Today a “tax in kind” is enacted that requires each state to collect one-tenth of their citizens agricultural product. The money will go directly to supplying the Confederate army, which has often struggled to keep its men fed, clothed and paid, especially in the western Confederate states.
In the Western Theater, U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant has been getting different reconnaissance information on the viability of taking Grand Gulf, Mississippi, about 30 miles from his main target of Vicksburg. Grant decides to view the situation for himself, so he and Admiral David Dixon Porter take a steamer downriver. Upon closer evaluation Grant believes he sees the key to the entire position: the northern-most bluff. Porter had earlier told Grant that he had seen fortifications on that area being constructed by slaves, but Grant notices there is no artillery yet in position that would prevent them from taking the bluff. He gives the order that he wants to make an attack in two days. Porter’s gunboats will take care of any artillery at Grand Gulf (if there is any by then) and Major General John McClernand’s men will be transported there by boats and are charged with taking the bluff. Grant’s vision is clear and he orders his officers to leave their horses and tents behind so they can move swiftly.
Just to reduce their chance of any surprises, Grant gives additional orders to McClernand to send armed reconnaissance south past the ground opposite of Grand Gulf so he can be aware of any Confederate troops or movements there. Grant has spent months trying various ways to get to Vicksburg; he is hoping this is the opening he needs.