This Day in the Civil War

Monday, March 31 1862

No major battles took place today, if you discount the one that was moving from simmer to boil in President Abraham Lincoln’s office in Washington. As George McClellan moved the Army of the Potomac farther and farther away from the Capital, its residents were becoming increasingly nervous. Finally Lincoln ordered a large division under Louis Blenker to leave McClellan and come back. This caused controversy and delays as McClellan demanded reinforcements. Of course, that was what he did under almost any circumstances anyway.

Tuesday, March 31 1863

A Confederate assault was begun today on the Federal garrison of Washington. You do not remember this catastrophe from your history books, because it involved the garrison of Washington, North Carolina, not the District of Columbia. Large quantities of artillery were used to keep the offshore Union gunboats from getting close enough to assist. Although they were not much use militarily, the gunboats did run in supplies that enabled the garrison to resist.

Thursday, March 31 1864

As the greening of the leaves moved northward at a steady pace, the armies of North and South prepared to do likewise and resume campaigning. On this day however, only preliminary skirmishing was conducted. A scuffle at Natchitoches, La., was considered part of the Red River Campaign. Other actions occurred at Palatka, Fla., Spring Island, S.C., Arkadelphia, Ark., and greater metropolitan Forks of Beaver, in eastern Kentucky.

Friday, March 31 1865

US Gen. Phil Sheridan, happy that the rain was ending, sent his men in to attack the Confederate right. Cavalry and infantry together, numbering around 50,000, moved toward Dinwiddie Court House. There waited perhaps 10,000 Confederates under the often-unfortunate George Pickett. Pickett’s men fought brilliantly and in fact drove the Federals back all day. That night, however, Pickett decided the effort was futile and retreated to Five Forks.

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