This Day in the Civil War

Thursday July 18 1861

“The Battle of Blackburn’s Ford” is how it went down in the histories, but as usual in this early stage of the war it would be just as well described as a blunder as a battle. Confederate forces under Johnston were retreating from the valley, and McDowell, with the largest American army ever assembled, was pursuing. Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler’s brigade was sent to check the ford, ran into Beauregard’s men, and a nasty fight ensued. Setting a precedent that became all too common, McDowell ordered his untrained troops to retreat.

Friday July 18 1862

One does not often think of important Civil War actions taking place in...Indiana. One such, however, occurred today, and it was not the last to take place in places which considered themselves safely ensconced in the middle of the Union. John Hunt Morgan, colonel of cavalry, had been raiding in Kentucky. Today he and his men set sail across the mighty Ohio and had their way with the citizenry of Newburg, In., near Evansville. Half of southern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio went into a panic.

Saturday July 18 1863

Battery, or Fort if you prefer, Wagner was a cannon position on Morris Island guarding Charleston Harbor. It was pounded today by mortars, shots from ironclad ships, and 36 other guns. After this softening-up, 6000 Union soldiers under Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour attacked. In the lead were the men of the 54th Mass. Infantry, the black regiment led by Col. Robert Gould Shaw. The attackers fought fiercely (perhaps because of the common rumor among black troops that any taken prisoner would be re-enslaved) but against fortifications it was ultimately unsuccessful. Union casualties were nearly 25 per cent. Among the dead was Shaw.

Monday July 18 1864

President Jefferson Davis, not unlike his Northern counterpart, ruled personally on the hiring and firing of generals of armies. Joining the ranks of the unemployed today was Joseph Eggleston Johnston. Davis had written that since he “express(ed) no confidence that you can defeat or repel” Sherman, who had just taken Atlanta, he was sacked and went into semi-retirement. His replacement today as commander of the Army of Tennessee was Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood.

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