This Day in the Civil War

Saturday, March 1 1862

Ulysses S. Grant was the hero of the North these days following his forces’ victories at Ft. Henry and Ft. Donelson. This adulation was not universal, especially in the households which were receiving notice that a family member had become a casualty in the operation. The focus on Grant also involved overlooking the contributions of quite a few others, of course, especially the US Navy. The level of cooperation achieved between the Army and Navy during the operations on the Western rivers was extraordinary. Today Grant’s boss, Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck, cut him new orders. He was to proceed south, up the Tennessee River, toward Eastport, Miss. The first skirmishes occurred at an obscure place called Pittsburg Landing, Tenn.

Sunday, March 1 1863

The new month brought no improvement to the situation in the Confederacy, most of which was still shivering under one of the worst winters in memory. The means to cope with the inclemency was waning rapidly as well, as the system for the distribution of food was increasingly disrupted. The climate was not as bad in the Western Confederacy, and Vicksburg was still unconquered, but there was famine approaching in Richmond. The Southern railway system had long suffered from a bizarre system in which track widths in each state were slightly different. This meant that a cargo of wheat from Texas, or beef from Florida, might have to be offloaded from one car to another every time a state border was crossed. It made moving large masses long distances extremely difficult.

Tuesday, March 1 1864

Gen. Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry forces, now divided into two units, were nearing Richmond on their mission to free the Union prisoners of war. Neither party knew that Richmond knew they were coming. The prison in the heart of the national capital had been a source of nervousness to the citizenry since the beginning. Rumors of planned escapes had swept the city regularly. Now that an actual attack was coming the city arose. A home guard was hastily organized, made up of recuperating wounded soldiers, old men, and plain civilians. Clerks put down their pens and took up guns. And they did their job--Kilpatrick was repulsed and forced to retreat. He gave up and headed east. Dahlgren, approaching from the west with 500 men, met a force headed by Custis Lee. Realizing that Kilpatrick had failed, Dahlgren ordered his men to withdraw in the night.

Wednesday, March 1 1865

The Thirteenth Amendment had fought a long battle through a contentious Congress just to make it to the ratification process. Now it was wending its way through the legislatures of states that had themselves been torn over the issue of slavery for decades. In perhaps the oddest coincidence of the process, on this day the amendment was ratified in Wisconsin--and rejected in New Jersey. This is not as suprising as it may seem today. Wisconsin had never allowed slavery, but it was perfectly legal in the Garden State. In fact, it took the eventual passage of the 13th Amendment to free the last nine slaves in New Jersey.

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