This Day in the Civil War

Tuesday Feb. 18 1862

The Confederate States of America had had a legislative body since the earliest days, but it had always met under the name of “Provisional Congress” as it was essentially an ad-hoc, self-appointed group. Last fall, however, elections had been held and today it was the official First Congress of the Confederate States of America which convened for the first time in Richmond, Virginia. It consisted of an upper and lower house and in fact looked quite remarkably like the Congress of the United States. Unfortunately, what should have been a happy celebration of the progress of the young nation was marred by the receipt of the news of the fall of Fort Donelson in Tennessee. The loss of the fort led to the complete failure of Confederate efforts in Kentucky, and left Tennessee threatened.

Wednesday Feb. 18 1863

Confederate General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard was in charge of the defenses of southern South Carolina and northern Georgia area. Although the harbors were heavily defended, the inland areas were not. There seemed to be no reason to waste scarce manpower on internal areas of the Confederacy after all, and every available man who was fit for military service was needed for either the defense of Richmond or the campaigns against the tightening stranglehold in the Western and Trans-Mississippi theaters. A defense Beauregard had to prepare nonetheless, and at least he could make speeches and inspire the populace. Today he warned of the dangers which could arise from attacks on either Charleston or Savannah, Ga. “To arms, fellow citizens!” he said.

Thursday Feb. 18 1864

The virtual playtime for the United States forces of Gen. William T. Sherman in Meridian, Mississippi, continued today. Sherman had told them to wreck every bit of public property or any items which could be of benefit to the Confederate cause. As Meridian was not a particularly large metropolitan area, there was really not much left to destroy there by today, so the Federal efforts were redirected at points outside the city limits. In particular, railroads or anything involved with railroad traffic was considered a prime target. Resistance, however, was not entirely lacking in the area. There was a Union supply line running in support of Sherman between Meridian and Memphis, Tennessee. This line was attacked by skirmishers at points in the Aberdeen-Okolona area in northern Mississippi.

Saturday Feb. 18 1865

The shattering blow of the loss of the South Carolina capital of Columbia yesterday was followed by a defeat even more humiliating, the long-invincible Charleston. Under attack by sea for four long years, defended by an intricate harbor and interlinked island forts, the town that could have fallen in the Battle of Secessionville was finally taken today by land. As the last Confederate soldiers quietly evacuated one side of town, the other side was entered by the troops of Gen. Alexander Shimmelfennig around nine o’clock in the morning. The usual delegation of civilian leaders, headed by the mayor of the town, met Shimmelfennig to offer the city’s surrender. Although some bales of cotton and other supplies were set afire to keep them out of Yankee hands, the flames did not spread to devour the town as they had in Columbia the day before. This may have been due to the random chance that the wind was not as strong.

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