This Day in the Civil War

Friday May 17 1861

Joseph Hooker was a West Point graduate and a hero of the Mexican War, winning a field promotion at the battle of Chapultepec. Unfortunately, he had somehow gotten on the wrong side of Gen. Winfield Scott, who was the reigning chief of the US Army between Mexico and the Civil War. Hooker quit in disgust and took up farming and business in California. When the war broke out he tried to reenlist, but Scott still had it in for him and blocked it. Today he made it, appointed Brigadier General on the defenses of Washington.

Saturday May 17 1862

It looked like the end of the war was imminent. Gen. George McClellan, USA, had the Army of the Potomac settled in very nearly at the gates of the Confederate capital. The next step was to activate the army of Gen. McDowell, currently on the banks of the Rappahannock River, and bring them in to reinforce McClellan. Two armies, one city....surely this meant the capture of the rebel capital and the end of the war. Right...?

Sunday May 17 1863

The bayous east of Vicksburg were beginning to dry up and be less of an impediment, but the Big Black River was still wet and deep. Pemberton’s Confederates were backed up against this waterway, waiting for a division which had gotten separated to rejoin them. Grant was on their heels, however, and they were forced to cross the Black in some disorder, burning the bridges behind them. The missing division, cut off, moved to link up with Gen. Johnston instead.

Tuesday May 17 1864

Gen. Joseph Eggleston Johnston, CSA, was a very wily commander--he won few battles but was very hard to catch. There was quite a group trying today. He assembled his army at Adairsville, GA, after a march from Calhoun. There he discovered that Gen. Thomas’ Federal Army of the Cumberland was in front of him, and Schofield and McPherson were moving in fast on either flank. Johnston’s solution was to split his army, sending two corps to Cassville and the other to Kingston. Moving at night, weary as they were, they escaped the trap.

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