This Day in the Civil War

Thursday July 11 1861
ROSECRANS’ ROMP REAPS RICH REWARD

It was in the hilly country of Western (but not yet West) Virginia that the major action occurred today. Some 2000 Federal troops, technically McClellan’s but in fact under command of Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans pulled a most unusual sneak attack on Confederate Lieut. Col. John Pegram’s men on Rich Mountain. The area was a hotbed of Union sympathizers, so it is not surprising that Rosecrans was guided to a semi-secret mountain path. This enabled him to catch Pegram’s left completely by surprise. The effects were two: after fighting a couple more days Pegram and 550 fellow Southerners were compelled to surrender, and the way for a Federal march to Beverly, VA, now stood wide open.



Friday July 11 1862
HIGH HONORS HAIL HALLECK

One of the problems on both sides in the War Between the States was finding competent commanding generals. It was hard enough to find those who knew how to fight, but even more difficult to find those who could administrate the overall effort. Both Lincoln and Davis had a tendency to try to do this job themselves, but one improvement at least on the Union side occurred today. Gen. Henry Halleck was appointed to the office of General-in-Chief of all United States land forces. Halleck’s nickname was “Old Brains”, in honor of the fact that he was known to be quite intelligent. He was also famous for being fussy, jealous and a procrastinator, as well as a perfectly dreadful field commander. Fortunately he was a top-rate administrator and contributed immeasurably to the Union war effort.



Saturday July 11 1863
MORIBUND MEADE MAKES MINOR MOVEMENT

Gen. George Meade had not done badly for a man on the job less than two weeks. Named commander of the Army of the Potomac, he had in one week maneuvered a huge force to Gettysburg and slugged it out with Robert E. Lee and won. The cost, however, had been stupendous, and when Lee began to withdraw, Meade essentially let him go, an action for which he is still sometimes criticized to this day. The criticism certainly started early: Lincoln was having a conniption fit, wanting Meade to pin Lee against the flooded Potomac River and destroy him. What everyone seemed to forget was that the same project had been tried the year before, after the Battle of Antietam, and the pursuing Union troops had been soundly defeated. Today, with the Army of the Potomac back in some semblance of working order, Meade began to move in pursuit.



Monday July 11 1864
BELTWAY BANDITS BURN BLAIR BUILDINGS

Jubal Early’s Confederate forces did what no other Southern men accomplished during the entire War: he invaded at least the suburbs of Washington D.C. Silver Spring, MD, suffered the brunt of the attack, with particular attention to what might seem like an unusual military target, the home of the Postmaster General. Nearly forgotten today, Montgomery Blair was an immensely powerful man in the Washington of those times. Both in his own right and through several sons, sons-in-law and nephews he had fingers in a great number of pies, even to St. Louis Mo. Defending the city was Gen. Lew Wallace, better known today as the author of the novel “Ben-Hur”. He was not doing well with his cobbled-together army of cripples and new recruits, and was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Sixth Corps regulars from City Point, Va.

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