This Day in the Civil War

Monday May 6 1861

The long-expected became actual today as the legislatures of Tennessee and Arkansas both passed Ordinances of Secession from the Union. Based on which one was ruled to have acted earlier, Tennessee became the ninth and Arkansas the tenth members of the Confederate States of America. The real question was whether Kentucky and Missouri would follow their neighbors’ lead. Strong efforts were underway both to assure and prevent this outcome.

Tuesday May 6 1862

The Confederate forces continued to retreat back towards Richmond just barely ahead of the oncoming Union troops. Today it was the town of Williamsburg which essentially saw the rearguard leaving as the Union scouts hit the other side of town. Union forces were being augmented by fresh troops which were being transported up the York River, escorted by the USS Wachusett under Cmdr. W. Smith.

Wednesday May 6 1863

The news of the utter disaster for the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville was just now beginning to filter through official sources to President Lincoln in Washington. It did his mood no good at all that he was getting more and better information from reading the Richmond newspapers than he was from his own army. He sent Gen. Hooker a telegram saying simply, “God bless you, and all with you. I know you will do your best.”

Friday May 6 1864

The James River in eastern Virginia was badly needed as a route for Union shipping to support the armies attacking Richmond. The problem was that it was infested with mines, or “torpedoes”. The USS Commodore Jones was searching for these today and found one--an “electric torpedo” which was set off by means of an electric wire by an operator on shore. The ship was blown up out of the water and reduced to splinters. The operator of the torpedoes, Jeffries Johnson, and batteries which powered the wires were promptly captured by a shore party, and placed in the bow of the next minesweeper. Mr. Johnson thereupon became more cooperative in revealing where mines were.

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