This Day in the Civil War

Wednesday Sept. 4 1861

Barely three days after being appointed to command at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Gen. U.S. Grant set up in business in...Cairo, Illinois. Being the town with the largest concentration of Union forces and the location of most of the training centers and “camps of instruction” in the Midwest, it seemed more logical to be on the scene. Polk, meanwhile, was justifying his invasion of Kentucky with a Confederate army by claiming that the Union was “concentrating forces” across the river from Columbus, Ky, and that he had just invaded the state to “protect it.”

Thursday Sept. 4 1862

The strategy of the War for Southern Independence had been clear, at least to the Southerners: they were an independent nation, and any battle was forced on them by the North’s attempts to force then back into an unwanted union. Not only was playing all-defense not working well militarily, though, but the rest of the world seemed disinclined to recognize their independence. Partly in hopes of encouraging them, Gen. Robert E. Lee was leading the Army of Northern Virginia north today. They were heading for Maryland, which, Lee hoped, would rise in support of the Army and secession. Today they got as far as Leesburg, Va.

Friday Sept. 4 1863

The Army of Tennessee, as brave a force as ever assembled, was in deep trouble today because of failures of leadership. Gen. Braxton Bragg was head of this force and today he had one army on the south of him and another coming in fast from the west. Gen. William Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland crossed the Tennessee River today at Bridgeport, Ala., and Shellmound, Tenn. If that wasn’t bad enough, Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s Union men were on the road from Knoxville. A major part of their campaign was to check railroad tracks, particularly bridges, certify that they had not been tampered with by the enemy, and then guard them to make sure they stayed that way. The importance of railroads was a new element in warfare, not covered in textbooks on the subject.

Sunday Sept. 4 1864

John Hunt Morgan was a Confederate cavalry leader in the style of Nathan Bedford Forrest in many ways. He operated as an independent command, rather than serving as the “eyes and ears” of a larger army. He raided, he ran, he wreaked havoc on Union forces and towns, civilian as well as military. He was in Greeneville, Tenn. last night, preparing for a raid through the Union-sympathizing territory of east Tennessee. Today his enemies proved that they had learned from his methods: they snuck into town as the sun was barely rising and hit Morgan’s men as they had hit so many others. Morgan was shot and killed while trying to rejoin his force to escape.

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