This Day in the Civil War

Wednesday July 31 1861

Missouri, as both a border state and a Western one, could have easily gone either way as a Confederate or Union ally. Legally elected Gov. Claiborne Jackson had endeavored to speed up the process by simply declaring the state for secession. Thanks to Gen. Nathaniel Lyon and Francis Blair Jr., Jackson was no longer governor but a refugee with Confederate forces in Arkansas. A new convention wa hastily held and Hamilton R. Gamble was inaugurated as his replacement. He made a patriotic speech.

Thursday July 31 1862

Negotiations had been underway for some time to work out a formal agreement, or cartel, for the exchange of prisoners. Jefferson Davis wrote to Robert E. Lee that the agreement was in place: with one exception. Gen. John “One pinch of owl dung” Pope had recently issued orders punishing Virginia citizens for depredations committed by Confederate soldiers on his Army of Virginia, and threatening to shoot any civilians caught crossing the lines. Davis told Lee that any prisoners taken from Pope’s forces were to be treated as common criminals, not prisoners of war. Lee used this only rarely.

Friday July 31 1863

The commerce raiders of the Confederacy, although capturing or sinking relatively little of the commerce directed at Northern ports, had one curious effect: by driving insurance rates so high that they caused owners to re-register their vessels under the flags of other countries, they reduced United States flag shipping to levels that were never restored to this day. One of the fiercest, CSS Florida, was now two days out of Bermuda on course for the repair yards of Brest, France. Her skipper, Commander Maffitt, was ill and had requested that a replacement be sent over.

Sunday July 31 1864

Gen. Jubal Early’s Confederate cavalry had been on an extended raid into the North, attempting to force Lincoln to pull forces away from Grant’s siege of Petersburg, Va. He had gone to the gates of Washington and been driven off. He had gone as far as Chambersburg in Pennsylvania, demanded a ransom, and when it was not paid, burned a good part of the city. Today he was suddenly under attack by Gen. Averel’s Federal cavalry and headed for Cumberland, Md.

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