This Day in the Civil War

Friday Jan. 3 1862

Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was famous for moving his troops with great speed, enabling them to pop up where they were least expected, usually with dismal results for Union opponents. Today’s expedition, known as the “Romney Campaign,” should have been perfect for the task. Jackson was leading the way to Bath, Virginia (known today as Berkeley Springs, W. Va.), a region he knew well. The objective was to get to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as well as the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, ripping up tracks of the first and destroying the locks of the second. Unfortunately for Jackson’s famed “foot cavalry”, they were discovered by a Union patrol and a brief skirmish broke out. The march was delayed.

Saturday Jan. 3 1863

Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg had, for once, actually fought a fairly good battle at Murfreesboro, near Stone’s River, in Tennessee. He had gone so far as to send a telegraph to Jefferson Davis announcing that he had achieved a great victory. This proved severely premature, though, as the last two days of fighting had shown. Today there was not actually a great deal of action, just two Federal brigades pushing the Southern lines toward the river, but Bragg now decided that the position was untenable. During this night, the Army of Tennessee, weary and wounded and cold, was told to pack up yet again and withdraw to Manchester. To U.S. Gen. Rosecrans’ amazement, he found himself the victor in command of the field.

Sunday Jan. 3 1864

U.S. Maj. Gen. Stephen Hurlbut was commander of Union forces in Memphis, Tenn., but that was far from his only area of interest or responsibility. He had a source of information deep within Confederate lines, who reported to him from Mobile, Ala. Today the news was not good. As Hurlbut reported to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, “The “Tennessee” at Mobile will be ready for sea in 20 days. She is a dangerous craft, Buchanan thinks more so than the “Merrimack”...” Hurlbut was not exaggerating, either. The “Tennessee” was the largest ironclad ever built by the Confederacy, 209 feet long and 48 feet in the beam. The “Buchanan” mentioned in the telegram was the ship’s designer, Confederate Adm. Franklin Buchanan, who had apparently never heard the saying that “loose lips sink ships.”

Tuesday Jan. 3 1865

So far, the Union assault on Wilmington, South Carolina, had been a complete failure. Intended as an amphibious assault on Christmas Day, in the opening attack on Ft. Fisher, the gunboats had encountered sand bars in unexpected places, and the troop transports had had foul weather and tossing seas to contend with. Of the 2000 soldiers who were finally landed, some 700 had been abandoned for two days when the others withdrew. In desperation Adm. D.D. Porter had written to Gen. Grant that the plan was fine but could only succeed with a different Army commander that Ben Butler. Grant agreed entirely, and today Butler was replaced by Maj. Gen. Alfred Terry, who had commanded a corps in Butler’s army. Terry was one of the relatively few who reached the rank of General without ever attending West Point.

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