This Day in the Civil War

Friday, April 4 1862

This was to have been the day of the attack on U.S. Grant’s U.S. forces near a river hamlet called Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. Instead, Gen. Albert Sydney Johnston, CSA, was having a terrible time getting his army’s rear in gear. Rain was part of the problem, but organization was also lacking. Skirmishing increased around the fringes of the armies and Johnston was convinced Grant knew he was there. Grant didn’t, which was understandable since his headquarters was in Savannah a couple of miles upriver. What was more alarming was that William T. Sherman, the commander on the scene, didn't either.

Saturday, April 4 1863

Captain Ralph Semmes, commander of the CSS Alabama, was possibly the premiere Confederate Naval force of the war, roaming the oceans of the world to gather supplies and harass Union boats. Today he captured a coal ship, Louisa off the coast of Brazil. Instead of sinking it he took it with him. As it happened he missed a supply ship a week later and needed the coal. He took it from Louisa, then sank her.

Monday, April 4 1864

The Union cavalry effort had been feeble for the first two years of the war, improving only last summer with the battles of Brandy Station and Gettysburg. Pleasanton, the first commander, had moved on to Washington to organize training and supplies of remounts. His replacement, Gregg, was today himself replaced with a general from the Western theater: Phil Sheridan. He had worked closely with Grant and had his confidence. It seems unlikely the Eastern cavalrymen were impressed at being bypassed.

Tuesday, April 4 1865

Abraham Lincoln walked the streets of Richmond, mobbed by grateful former slaves, and toured the home of Jefferson Davis, which Davis had vacated two days before when his army could no longer defend his nation’s capital. Davis wrote his remaining citizens that, depressing as the loss of Richmond was, they should not give up “despite reverses, no matter how calamitous.” Given the circumstances it seems unlikely that too many people heard this, and less likely that anyone who did took it seriously.

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