This Day in the War: 9/24/10

Tuesday Sept. 24 1861

A historic ruling came today from Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, in a letter to Flag Officer Samuel duPont of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. A new regulation “with respect to…persons of color, commonly known as ‘contraband’, now subsisted at the navy yards and on board ships of war. It is not proper that they should be compelled to render…services without compensation. You are therefore authorized…to enlist them for the naval service, under the same forms and regulations as apply to other enlistments.” It would be some years before blacks were enlisted in the other services.

Wednesday Sept. 24 1862

Abraham Lincoln announced another proclamation suspending the right of habeas corpus, this time in any area under Federal control. The particular target of this move was “all Rebels and Insurgents, their aiders and abettors within the United States, and all persons discouraging volunteer enlistments, resisting militia drafts, or guilty of any disloyal practice, affording comfort to Rebels against the authority of the United States.” This action suspending perhaps the primary guarantee of civil liberties in the Constitution was, in fact, Constitutional–Article I, section 9, states “The writ shall not be suspended unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” Many were outraged at this trampling of civil liberties and regarded it as a sign of the downfall of the Republic.

Thursday Sept. 24 1863

The ambitious effort to rescue Gen. William Starke Rosecrans and the men of his Army of the Cumberland got into high gear today. The plan was to send the 11th and 12th Corps of the Army of the Potomac to assist him. The impediment to it was, of course, that the Army of the Potomac was in northern Virginia, and Rosecrans and his men were essentially under siege in Chattanooga, Tennessee. To march the route would have been a bit time-consuming, so the plan was to send them by train. Today saw an unprecedented massing of rolling stock on the railroads of the North. The Federal possession of Nashville, a great rail center of the state, would make considerable difference in this effort.

Saturday Sept. 24, 1864

It was a time of rack and ruin in many parts of the country today. In the Shenandoah Valley Gen. Jubal Early’s Confederate cavalry was staying just far enough ahead of Phil Sheridan’s pursuing Federals that no real battle could be fought. Sheridan’s men, therefore, spent their time burning barns, farms, fields, haystacks and anything else that could possibly be of use to the military forces of the Confederacy. When not doing this they skirmished at Mount Jackson, New Market, Luray, and Timberville. In Missouri, Sterling Price’s Confederate raiders committed depredations in Fayette, along with rumbles in Jackson and Farmington, Mo. Finally, Nathan Bedford Forrest led his Confederate band to a battle in Athens, Ga., resulting in their capture of same.

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