Civil War Week by Week: 5/8/12 – 5/14/12


What happened this week in the american civil war?

May 8th 1862

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time as Robert Schenck took his 6000 men (detached from Gen. Fremont’s command) into a battle today at McDowell, or Bull Pasture Mountain, in western Virginia. Unfortunately, he soon discovered that he was up against 10,000 Confederates under Stonewall Jackson, and retreating seemed like an even better idea. Jackson’s men pursued as far as Franklin, Va. They were already getting the name of “foot cavalry” for their speed of movement.

May 9th 1862

The Confederacy was forced today to abandon the defense of Norfolk, Va., including the navy base there and the navy and army supply depos. Although there was no battle, the loss of the Norfolk yards was a heavy bow to the South. It was not only esential for the defense of southern Virginia and North Carolina, it was the home port of the pioneering ironclad CSS Merrimack. Retreating forces attempted to destroy what they could not carry, but much was left for the invading Federals.

May 10th 1862

A Federal flotilla of seven ironclad ships, under overall command of Capt. Charles H. Davis, was travelling the Mississippi River just north of Ft. Pillow, Tenn., when it was set upon by the Confederate River Defense Fleet. The CRDF was more impressive in name than in either equipment or discipline: they had eight ships, but none of them were armored. They attacked anyway, and managed to ram and sink two Union ships, Cincinnati and Mound City. Four of the eight CDRF vessels were disabled, but Montgomery withdrew to Memphis anyway.

May 11th 1862

She had started out life as the USS Merrimack. Already she had been sunk once. Refloated by those who sank her, she was now the CSS Virginia and had made naval history in battle with the USS Monitor. Today they sank her again. After the loss of the Norfolk, Va., navy yards she had nowhere to go but up the James River towards Richmond, and it was discovered that the river was too shallow. A good load of gunpowder assured that she would not be refloated again.

May 12th 1862

After the fall of New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, the Union had been working its way to every town on the Mississippi River. Today a Federal flotilla with Admiral David Farragut in command made its way to the docks of Natchez, Louisiana. As the city was not in possession of weaponry or military manpower to do anything else, Farragut was presented with the surrender of the town by its mayor.

May 13th 1862

The captain of the steamship Planter was a smart and crafty fellow. To keep his expenses down, he crewed the vessel entirely with African Americans. Today he docked in Charleston, S.C., and went ashore to do some business. He stayed overnight. At about 4 a.m. his erstwhile crew, led by Robert Smalls, hoisted anchor and chugged out into the bay. Reaching the Union blockade ships they raised a white flag and surrendered the ship and cargo–including themselves– to Acting Lt. Nickels of the USS Onward. They were happily received.

May 14th 1862

A Union soldier from the 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was on picket duty today. As the duties were not onerous, he spent the time writing a letter home. He told of an incident the day before: “A strong scouting party went out to Tuscarora (N.C.)…where is kept a post of (enemy) observation….they left but before doing so set fire to a new steam saw and grain mill, which was destroyed. These people have a great notion of burning their property on our approach. ..they ought to know that it is of no use to us, and in the end will be a sore loss to them.”



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