This Day in the War: 11/01/10

Friday Nov. 1 1861

The Union command in St. Louis, Mo., was not attracting the best or the brightest. The first military commander, Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, had been something less than politically correct in his passion to keep the state in the Union, but at least he had fought fiercely and achieved a martyr’s death at Wilson’s Creek. His successor, Gen. John Fremont, had been just as politically annoying, issuing unauthorized Emancipation Proclamations and otherwise infuriating the populace. Today orders arrived relieving him of duty. He locked himself in his office to avoid accepting the orders. When a captain dressed up as a farmer and was admitted, Fremont had him instantly arrested to keep word from getting out. Finally he set forth in pursuit of Sterling Price. Price, uncooperatively enough, had fallen back sixty miles and was out of range for plausible pursuit.

Saturday Nov. 1 1862

One of the most unfortunate mistakes made by the Union high command in the second year of the war was the issuance of a duplicated set of orders, one placing Ulysses S. Grant in overall command of the Army operations on the Mississippi River campaign, and the other apparently giving this same command to Illinois politician turned general John McClernand. Both sets of orders were delivered, alas, and by the time the confusion was straightened out there had been bitter recriminations on both sides, especially as McClernand’s supporters revived the accusations of drunkenness against Grant. The latter, now trying to plan and launch an overland campaign against Vicksburg, was not getting all the cooperation he should have been. Units he was designating for this attack kept turning out to have been transferred without his knowledge to other operations.

Sunday Nov. 1 1863

Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor, had seen the beginning of the war, when it suffered shelling. It had endured one major round of shelling since then, when the first major Federal assault had taken place. Now it was undergoing yet another one. Since the bombardment had begun, from mortars and from rifled batteries, hundreds and then thousands of shells had been hurled at the installation. Today yet another 786 rounds were fired, with the net effect of inflicting injury on precisely one defender. That reflected the physical injuries anyway. The psychological toll was vastly greater, as the impact of the explosions continued to wear away on the men in their bombproof shelters.

Tuesday Nov. 1 1864

In his long career as a fighter for the cause of Southern independence, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest practiced his motto of “get there firstest, with the mostest” by any means necessary. Today was, however, the first occasion on which he could legitimately have taken the title “Admiral.” Having captured a Union gunboat and two transports ships two days ago, he had intended to use them just to get his men, horses, artillery and supplies across the Tennessee River. Having acquired the vessels, he reasoned, they may as well be put to further use. Ordering his no-doubt puzzled cavalrymen to learn the intricacies of gunboat operations as best they could, he loaded men and supplies on the ships and headed upriver to Johnsonville, Tenn. There was a Union supply depot there.

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