This Day in the War: 2/9/11

Sunday, Feb. 9 1862

Proving that “political generals” were not an exclusively Northern phenomenon, on this day Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, CSA, was appointed commander of Ft. Donelson. Pillow, whose education was in law, not war, had been the law partner of one James K. Polk. He helped Polk become president in 1844; two years later Polk made Pillow a general in the Mexican War. Pillow’s service at Donelson was, to put it mildly, undistinguished.

Monday, Feb. 9 1863

Admiral Samuel F. DuPont, commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, was not a happy man. His displeasure was shared by the men of his command, largely because both they and their ships were short of fuel. Oil for machinery was in even shorter supply than coal for their boilers. The men rejoiced to see a ship that was to bring them sugar, coffee, dried fruit and other rations. It was, alas, a different ship and carrying only munitions, which they already had in abundance.

Tuesday, Feb. 9 1864

Col. Thomas Rose, USA, came from Pennsylvania mining country. This background helped him engineer a tunnel out of the notorious Libby Prison in Richmond today. Escapees totaled 109, of whom 59 eventually made their way to Union territory; 48 were recaptured, and two were drowned during the escape. The tunnel’s outlet, alas, led out to the James River. The effort was of greater importance than the number of escapees would indicate: the people of Richmond had lived in terror of just such an escape, and now that it had actually occurred, panic was considerable.

Thursday, Feb. 9 1865

Today, with great reluctance, Gen. Robert E. Lee accepted his appointment as General-in-Chief of all the Confederate armies. He stated that he would continue to rely on the judgment and competence of the armies’ field commanders. He also stated that the shortage of manpower was becoming desperate, and proposed to pardon deserters if they would return to their units within 30 days. President Davis promptly approved, but the actual number of returnees was fairly slight.

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