This Day in the Civil War

Monday Aug. 5 1861

The US Congress passed, and President Lincoln signed, a measure today which levied a direct tax on income, as well as real estate. Intended to go into effect Jan. 1, 1862, it subjected all incomes over $800 to a 3 percent tax rate. As the mechanisms to collect the tax did not yet exist, and amazingly few people sent the money in voluntarily, the tax was basically ignored. The bill also raised tariffs, issued new bonds, and permitted the enlistment of seamen for “the duration of the war” rather than a pre-specified time period.

Tuesday Aug. 5 1862

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was the bone of contention today. Forces under Gen. John Breckinridge assaulted the Federals under Gen. Thomas Williams in dense fog, driving them back. With help from heavy gunboats on the Mississippi the Union men reformed for a counterattack. Williams was killed almost immediately, but the Confederates were forced to withdraw. The unfinished gunboat CSS Arkansas was no help in the battle; it didn’t arrive until after it was over, due to faulty engines.

Wednesday Aug. 5 1863

It was not a happy leader of the Confederate Submarine Battery Service who had to report to his commander today. The gunboat USS Commodore Barney had been making its way carefully up the James River, just above Dutch Gap, Va. Just as the ship was about to pass over one of these electrically-triggered torpedoes, the aforementioned operator hit the button just a few seconds early. The resulting explosion produced “agitated water” and “a lively concussion”, observers reported, but a delay of just a few seconds would have demolished the boat. The bomb did cost the Union two men, who either jumped in panic or were knocked overboard by the concussion. They were lost and presumed drowned.

Friday Aug. 5 1864

The Battle of Mobile Bay opened at 6 o'clock this morning. The monitor USS Tecumseh was leading the charge past the guns of Ft. Morgan when she struck a mine, called in those days torpedoes. She sank in minutes, taking 90 of her 114 men, including her captain, down with her. It was at this point that Admiral David Farragut, aboard the monitor Hartford, shouted “Damn the torpedo's! Full speed ahead, Drayton! Hard a starboard; ring four bells! Eight bells! Sixteen bells!” The Hartford sailed past the faltering Brooklyn into the Bay. By 10 a.m. the last Confederate ship, Tennessee, surrendered. By nightfall Ft. Morgan was abandoned and blown up. The final Gulf port was closed.

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