This Day in the Civil War

Thursday Aug. 22 1861

There was little action of great military significance today, but that did not mean that events were not rolling along in other ways. For instance, there were two ships tied up at the docks of Paducah, Kentucky, this morning, under ownership of men believed to be supporters of the Union, or at least opponents of secession. By afternoon not much had changed except that the vessels, the W. B. Terry and the Samuel Orr, had undergone a change of ownership. They now belonged to pro-Confederate powers. The line between political differences and grand larceny were not always as clearly drawn as they might have been.

Friday Aug. 22 1862

Three days ago Horace Greely, writing in his New York Tribune, had published his classic “Prayer of Twenty Million”, imploring Abraham Lincoln to make the abolition of slavery the main aim of the current war. Today Lincoln responded with a statement so clear even a newspaperman should have understood it: “I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution.. ...If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”

Saturday Aug. 22 1863

As if Jefferson Davis did not have enough problems to contend with. He was supposed to be finding reinforcements to shore up Gen. Braxton Bragg’s shaky hold on Chattanooga and eastern Tennessee; coping with the loss of Vicksburg and thereby the entire trans-Mississippi portion of the Confederacy; scrounging up food, horseshoes and other vital supplies for Robert E. Lee’s army in northern Virginia. To top it off he was now having difficulty even finding out what was going on. The postal clerks of the city of Richmond had all quit. The entire workforce walked out in a wage dispute with the government. Letters from Aunt Gertrude and reports from the field were all sitting in bags, undelivered.

Monday Aug. 22 1864

Despite several days of ferocious attacks, Federal forces still held the vital Weldon Railway link south of Petersburg. The Fifth Corps of the Federal forces had lost about 4500 casualties, but large numbers of those were prisoners, not fatalities. The Army of Northern Virginia on the other hand had lost only 1600--but that was from a force of barely 14,000. Gen. Lee had again proposed a prisoner exchange and Gen. Grant had one again refused. Grant could afford to lose the men, and afford to feed the prisoners he took. He knew that Lee’s situation was precisely the opposite. It would, however, be rough on the Union captives.

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