This Day in the Civil War

Friday Aug. 2 1861

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler, although not much for battlefield command, usually had considerable talent for efficient administration. This was not much in evidence today as he addressed the problem of drunkenness among the troops at Ft. Monroe, at Hampton Roads, Va. He went about this in a straightforward manner, simply outlawing the sale of intoxicating beverages to the soldiers. This worked about as well as prohibition ever does: booze was found at one time or another stored in gun barrels, cannon tubes, and canteens. Similar prohibitions were tried in other areas by other generals, with pretty much the same results.

Saturday Aug. 2 1862

It seemed like a minor bureaucratic maneuver at the time: after considerable backstage work Dr. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac, announced today the establishment of the Army Ambulance Corps. In fact the army had always had ambulances, but they were under the control of the Quartermaster Corps, and tended to be treated like any other wagons, hauling any supplies that came to hand. Now under Letterman’s control, they were to be stocked only with medical supplies. The effect on the care and treatment of the wounded would be considerable.

Sunday Aug. 2 1863

It was not a happy time in Richmond. Gettysburg was lost, Vicksburg had fallen, the nation was cut in half. And today came an escalation of the threat in a new quarter: Charleston, South Carolina, the hotbed and originator of the secession crisis that created the Confederacy. In Charleston Harbor, near Cummings Point on Morris Island, Federal gunboats came to call. They assaulted the Confederate steamer Chesterfield. Although the attack was indecisive and not pursued, it was considered an omen of new attacks to come.

Tuesday Aug. 2 1864

The Confederate States of America had its share and more of brave and insightful military commanders and troops. What it never had was the industrial infrastructure to support these troops in the field. An example of what such support could mean was growing rapidly at City Point, Virginia. This was where Gen. Grant chose to locate his supply base for his men in the siege of Petersburg. Huge bakeries provided fresh bread instead of hardtack. Warehouses were built for supplies, ammunition dumps kept weapons operating. There was even a network of railroad tracks built to get these supplies to where they were needed. Recreational opportunities were not overlooked, although certainly not officially sanctioned. An entire village of prostitutes was in operation.

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