This Day in the Civil War

Monday Aug. 12 1861

The armed Confederate elements in Missouri had been on the run for months, chased out of the capital and nearly out of the state by Gen. Nathaniel Lyon. Finally at Wilson’s Creek near Springfield they had made a stand, and now Lyon was dead and the Federals in retreat. The Southern commander, Gen. Ben McCulloch, gave the citizens of the state an ultimatum: it was time to take sides. He promised that Union sympathizers would be protected, but “Missouri must be allowed to choose her own destiny.”

Tuesday Aug. 12 1862

Gallatin, Tennessee, was normally a rather quiet little station for Union troops on garrison duty. This time of year being just a bit on the warm side made it all the more dull. Boredom was not among the garrison’s problems today, however, as Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his merry band of raiders swooped into town. The Confederate cavalry force captured the town and garrison in short order. The change of power was even accomplished with little bloodshed.

Wednesday Aug. 12 1863

They were only practice shots. They came from Parrott guns, which were named for their inventor and not tropical birds. These were special Parrott guns though, heavier in caliber than normal and rifled inside the barrel for greater accuracy and range. The Federal forces had finally gotten them ashore on Morris Island in Charleston Harbor and installed them on their mountings in the sand. They fired off calibration shots today, intending only to test the aim of the weapons. They blew holes in the brick walls of Ft. Sumter with these test shots.

Friday Aug. 12 1864

It was not uncommon for soldiers on both sides to be in the army despite having no great desire to be there. Perhaps they were drafted, or enlisted in an outburst of enthusiasm which they now regretted. When one of these soldiers was captured they might be offered freedom on the condition of joining the OTHER army. Such new recruits were said to have been ‘galvanized’, as in having a coat of a new color painted on the outside. The procedure did not just apply to men: the gunboat Tennessee, formerly of the Confederate navy, having had her smokestack replaced and other damage repaired, began her new career in the US Navy as she got up steam today.

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