This Day in the Civil War

Wednesday April 2 1862

Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston was the general-du-jour in the estimation of the Confederate high command. He had been put in charge of the defenses of the West and by jove, defend it he intended to do. His command was an agglomeration of units formerly under scattered commanders and operations. They were today gathering in Corinth,Miss., to listen to Johnston present his plans. They were clear and direct. The Federal forces, under the command of a failed Illinois businessman with a reputation for drunkenness, were coming up the Tennessee River to camp at a place called Pittsburg Landing. Johnston and his men would march there, fight them, and throw Ulysses S. Grant and his Yankees back into the river.

Thursday April 2 1863

It became famous as the “Richmond Bread Riot”, but the actual causes of the outburst are unclear. People were not starving in the streets, but it was unquestionable that runaway inflation and a tightening Yankee blockade was making living increasingly difficult, particularly for widows, orphans, and soldiers’ wives. A crowd gathered around a wagon demanding bread. Things rapidly got out of hand and the crowd, by now a full-fledged mob, abandoned the now-empty wagon and began breaking shop windows and looting anything they could get their hands on. President Davis was so alarmed that he came out into the street, climbed onto a wagon, and begged for order, even taking money out of his own pocket and throwing it to the crowd to show he was no better off than they were. Troops and police eventually broke up the mob without bloodshed or excessive arrests.

Saturday April 2 1864

It was supposed to be the last big combined Army-Navy sweep to clear the remaining Confederate forces out of the Trans-Mississippi, specifically the Red River of Louisiana. Gen. Nathaniel Banks led the Army side of the operation. Theoretically these soldiers were always to stay within mortar range of the riverboats of the Navy side of the operation, under Admiral D. D. Porter himself. Further insurance for the federal operations was being provided by Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele, who was moving south out of Camden to guarantee that Banks was not bothered on his way to Shreveport. He would not succeed.

Sunday April 2 1865

The Siege of Petersburg, which had lasted for so many months, ended today as the Confederate lines essentially collapsed. At 4:30 a.m. the Federals began to advance; opposition was light and in some places nonexistent. In a tragic near-afterthought, Gen. A. P. Hill was killed on the Boynton Plank Road. Lee telegraphed to Davis that he was evacuating Petersburg and attempting to reassemble at Amelia Court House. Jefferson Davis, who had spent yesterday wrangling with the issue of recruitment of Negro troops, was by 11 p.m. on his way out of town with the Cabinet and what of the government assets and records as could be transported.

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