This Day in the Civil War

Friday Feb. 21 1862

Usually called an "engagement," the action at Valverde, New Mexico Territory, was enough of a battle for at least a hundred men today who died in the encounter. The plan was to have Federal forces under Col. E. R. S. Canby block a ford by which Confederate troops intended to cross the Rio Grande on their way to Santa Fe. As the intent of the Southern forces was to add the immense area to the Confederacy, the matter was indeed urgent. After an altercation severe enough to see over 300 wounded in addition to the dead, the Federals beat a retreat back to Ft. Craig from which they had emerged. Someone else would have to stop the takeover of New Mexico Territory.

Saturday Feb. 21 1863

On the face of it, virtually nothing was going on today. A Union gunboat took potshots at some Confederate artillery batteries on the Rappahannock River, ho hum. A Federal "expedition" wandered around Tennessee south of Nashville looking for trouble, yawn. But in Washington some very major moves were underway that would not hit the presses for a couple of days yet. Work was coming to a head on the Conscription Act, which would not prove entirely popular with the populace, and a new National Bank and standardization of the national currency were about to be established.

Sunday Feb. 21 1864

There were two halves to what was being called the "Meridian Campaign" in Mississippi. One, led by Gen. William T. Sherman, was the southerly half of the project and had accomplished its goal of reaching Meridian and doing what they could to reduce its usefulness to the Confederate cause. This they did by tearing up railroad tracks, ripping down telegraph lines, burning public buildings like courthouses and post offices, as was their usual practice. The other half of the prong was not doing nearly so well. Gen. William Sooy Smith had had the misfortune of having the pestilential Confederate cavalryman Nathan B. Forrest on his tail, and was succumbing to the pressure. Although Sherman was expecting him to come riding up to Meridian at any time, in fact Smith was retreating for Memphis as fast as he could manage.

Tuesday Feb. 21 1865

Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg gets a bad rap from most historians, and in most cases this condemnation and loathing is entirely deserved. Today, though, one is hard pressed to see what else he could have done but retreat, yet again, this time from Wilmington, North Carolina. In front of him were the Union troops under overall command of Gen. William T. Sherman, who had been marching pretty much unimpeded through the heart of the southern Confederacy for weeks now. Bragg was the one supposed to be doing the impeding, but his few remaining troops stood no chance whatsoever in pitched battle. To save them, Bragg retreated again today, ordering the destruction of those supplies that could not be carried.

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