This Day in the Civil War

Tuesday Aug. 13 1861

Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory had a problem in his department. He had a good number of sailors and captains, including veterans and Naval Academy graduates. What he was short of was suitable ships of war for them to work on. He had sent a representative, Cmdr. James D. Bulloch, to England to try to buy more. Bulloch wrote today that there were two sorts of British ships available: wooden, which was not exactly state of the art, and ironclad. Unfortunately, the latter were: “..staunch enough for voyages of traffic, [but] too thin in the plates and light in the carry guns of much weight.” He placed orders with two contractors to build new ones to his specifications.

Wednesday Aug. 13 1862

The Potomac River, at least as far upstream as Washington, D.C., is by and large a wide and easily navigable river. It was not, however, accustomed to the level of traffic it was carrying these days, and it was not wide enough for two Union steamers today. The George Peabody and the West Point managed to run into each other on the river today in a most unpleasant manner. Both were carrying wounded men from Burnside’s corps, who had recovered enough to go to a convalescent hospital. The death toll in the collision was 73.

Thursday Aug. 13 1863

An unknown chaplain with the Confederate service in the Western Theater wrote to President Jefferson Davis today. He was not a happy man, as few were since the fall of Vicksburg. “I beseech of you to relieve us of these drones and pigmies,” he said, specifically mentioning the names of Gen John C Pemberton and Theophilus H. Holmes. “Every disaster than has befallen us in the West has grown out of the fact that weak and inefficient men have been kept in power." Holmes would not be replaced until the following March.

Saturday Aug. 13 1864

Starting today a fearsome group of Union gunboats began steaming around the James River east of Richmond. They sailed around Fussell’s Mill, Deep Bottom, Gravel Hill, and White Tavern. They roamed short distances up Four-Mile, Dutch and Bailey’s Creeks. Charles’ City Road and New Market Road received attention too. They were trying to distract Lee’s attention from Petersburg and force him to divert some troops. The project lasted a week, and didn’t work.

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