This Day in the War: 10/18/10

Friday Oct. 18 1861

There was a famous General Sherman in the Civil War. There was an obscure one as well, Thomas West Sherman, and he was in action today. Sherman, a long time Army regular who had started his career by walking 400 miles to Washington D.C. to ask President Andrew Jackson for an appointment to West Point, was assigned to lead an amphibious assault on Port Royal, South Carolina. Unfortunately the only soldiers available to send on this enterprise were currently under the command of Gen. George McClellan. Repeated requests for a few divisions to be sent were met by the same response from Little Mac: sorry, he couldn’t spare a single one. The conflict was so severe that it had worked all the way up to the Commander in Chief to resolve.

Saturday Oct. 18 1862

John Hunt Morgan belonged to that class of Confederate horsemen known as “cavalry raiders.” His mission, essentially, was to ride around Tennessee and Kentucky wreaking havoc with Union activities, breaking communications, isolating advance forces, and confiscating supplies. Along with occasional forays into southern Ohio and Indiana to sow fear, panic and pacifism in the Union itself, he accomplished his assignment well. Rarely did his men engage in pitched battles, but one of these occasions occurred today. They met and fought Federal cavalry near Lexington, Ky., today, beat them, and forced them back into the town. They went on to capture the garrison and then moved off, towards Versailles.

Sunday Oct. 18 1863

There was a massive realignment of Union forces in the “Western theater” today, as Gen. U. S. Grant was named head of the Military Division of the Mississippi, covering an area from the Mississippi River to the Appalachians. Included in his area of responsibility was the city of Chattanooga, which continued to be the involuntary base of operations for Gen. William S. Rosecrans’ army. Rumors were rampant that Rosecrans was planning to withdraw in the presence of the Army of Tennessee which had whipped him badly in the Battle of Chickamauga almost a month ago. Whatever he was planning was not going to be carried out, because one of Grant’s first acts was to relieve him of command of the army. Gen. George H. Thomas replaced him, and said, “We will hold this town till we starve.”

Tuesday Oct. 18 1864

For awhile it had seemed that Gen. Richard Early’s Confederate cavalry force was doomed. Pursued relentlessly by Gen. Phil Sheridan, George Armstrong Custer, and a large number of lesser-known Union cavalrymen, Early had been losing far too many of his command to wounds, death or capture. Today Early and his staff went personally clambering around the edge of Massanutten Mountain, to peer down on the Federals camped in the creek valley below. Having concluded that retreat was getting them nowhere, Early planned out an alternative strategy: full-bore attack, come what may. It was scheduled for tomorrow.

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