This Day in the Civil War

Friday Aug. 16 1861

In what would seem to be a case of incredibly belated noticing of the obvious, Abraham Lincoln issued a declaration today. It stated that the inhabitants of a number of areas calling themselves the Confederate States of America were “in a state of insurrection against the United States, and that all commercial intercourse” should forthwith cease and desist. It wasn't that he hadn't noticed earlier that a war was going on, but in fact an important legal issue. Among other things it served notice that no further compromising would be done. In addition it put a halt to what had been a thriving cotton trade in the border states.

Saturday Aug. 16 1862

It was a day of movement for many armies. Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith led his Confederate Army of Kentucky across the Cumberland River out of Tennessee into Kentucky. Gen. George McClellan finally completed his move out of Harrison’s Landing into the Aquia Creek area. His goal was to meet up with John Pope’s Army of Virginia. The two of them were joining forces against Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which was itself on the move away from Gordonsville.

Sunday Aug. 16 1863

Wartime prompts technological innovation, and the Civil War was certainly no exception. Torpedoes, or what would today be called mines, were developed for use on both land and water. The land versions were condemned by both sides as inhuman, but both sides used them anyway. A water-borne variety was in use today on the Stono River in Charleston. They were set afloat to drift into Union shipping, where they caused chaos but little damage. Admiral John Dahlgren promptly ordered a net strung across the river to nab future nasties.

Tuesday Aug. 16 1864

Confederate commerce raider Commander John Taylor Woods was up to his usual business today. Since breaking through the Union blockade at Wilmington, N.C., last Thursday, Wood had captured seven ships that day, six on Friday, but then only two on Saturday, all in the offshore area of Sandy Hook, N.J. He took Sunday off to move north, and Monday grabbed six. Five more were out of business today. Wood’s usual tactic was to burn all but one of a day’s take and load personnel on to the remaining one.

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