This Day in the Civil War

Sunday Jan. 5 1862

After a skirmish yesterday, and some other setbacks, Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson’s men succeeded in driving the Union forces out of the town of Bath, Virginia (neither name is the same today; the town is known as Berkeley Springs, West Virginia) and captured the village. As he had no particular use for it, he pursued the departing Yankees up to the Potomac River. The blue forces got across the river to Hancock, Maryland. Stonewall did not wish to risk leaving Virginia territory and saw no need to when the town was in easy artillery range. He demanded it surrender; the mayor refused. After allowing time for evacuation of women and children, Jackson’s men began bombarding the city.

Monday Jan. 5 1863

U.S. Gen. William Rosecrans had, three days before, effectively won the Battle of Stones’ River when his opponent, Braxton Bragg, withdrew from the field. In the north the joy was unbounded, and U.S. President Abraham Lincoln extended the thanks of the nation to Rosecrans. In Richmond, C.S. President Jefferson Davis was just returned from a trip to the western part of his country as well, causing crowds to gather and sing him songs at the Confederate White House. No politician can ignore a crowd, of course, so he gave a speech. After extolling the glories of the Confederate way of life and philosophy, he noted that the Union forces, in contrast, were practicing “every crime which could characterize the course of demons.”

Tuesday Jan. 5 1864

There were decidedly different views expressed at each end of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. today on the subject of federal bounties paid to new recruits in the Union army. Yesterday, Congress had cancelled the payments outright. In the early days of the War, bounties had often been raised and paid out of civic pride (or a need to fill recruitment quotas) at the state, county and even city level. Over time, as troop needs escalated again and again, the task had moved to the Federal level, which, having to pay, clothe, arm and feed the men once recruited, was reluctant to pay to hire them in the first place. Lincoln on the other hand sent a request to Capitol Hill today suggesting strongly that they reconsider. First he requested that the bounties be kept in place for at least another month. Then, to emphasize the seriousness of the matter, he proposed that they be increased.

Thursday Jan. 5 1865

Again Jefferson Davis was painfully reminded of the difficulties of running a war, especially while trying to get a nation operating at the same time. He had problems with manpower. He had problems with the draft. He received incessant complaints about the conduct of the war itself, from every level of the military including privates, on up to generals. In Washington Lincoln had the opposite problem of more people flooding in than he knew what to do with. They were not, alas, panting to join the army and see the world, or even the south; they were job-seekers and those who had been promised cushy government positions to induce them to support the ticket in the election of last November. Lincoln would much rather work on the problems of reestablishing trade in areas as they were conquered by the advancing Union army.

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