This Day in the Civil War

Sunday June 16 1861

By custom, and in some places by law, Sunday was a day of churchgoing, followed by rest. Business was not normally conducted on this day, but these were not normal times. In camps, in barns, in tents, on prairies, mountains and cities, newly recruited troops today were beginning their indoctrination into Army life. Almost none had uniforms, very few had government-issued weapons (although many had simply brought their own from home, these often did not use standard-sized ammunition) and the rations issued were definitely not up to Mother’s standards of cooking.

Monday June 16 1862

Despite its name, the town of Secessionville, South Carolina had been in existence for many years before the War of Southern Rebellion. Its capture was important to the Federal effort to recapture Charleston Harbor. This cause suffered a dreadful setback today when, completely against orders and all advice, Brig. Gen. H. W. Benham decided to assault the works from James Island. The attack failed utterly, his force of 6600 suffered nearly 700 casualties, and Benham was soon relieved of command and forgotten.

Tuesday June 16 1863

Commanding general of the Army of the Potomac Joseph Hooker seemed to have no end of trouble figuring out where Robert E. Lee’s army was. It was no mystery to the citizens of the capital of Pennsylvania. Lee was clearly headed north, and Harrisburg decided to clear out en masse. Every train was packed, citizens loaded possessions into wagons and followed. Even the state government began packing state papers, books, paintings and other valuables to be evacuated.

Thursday June 16 1864

The first attack on Petersburg yesterday started out as a masterpiece of surprise and degenerated into a textbook example of how delays and poor communications can ruin an attack. All was not lost, however, as Lee, still believing that Grant could not be south of the James River, was slow to move to Petersburg defense. He sent Pickett’s division, though, and that proved to be enough. With that extra help, P.T.G. Beauregard was able to stave off defeat again.

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