This Day in the Civil War

Thursday Sept. 5 1861

Anyone who was under the impression that modern day media are the first to take an interest in military affairs, should have been in Charleston, S.C. on this day. There, the “Mercury” launched into its editor's analysis of what it called “inactivity” by the Army of Northern Virginia in the area of Washington. According to the paper, there was no reason why, with the army on the outskirts of the town, they should not just march in and take it. The minor impediment of the Army of the Potomac being in the way was not taken into consideration.

Friday Sept. 5 1862

U.S. Gen John Pope, late commander of the Army of Virginia, had retreated from the Shenandoah Valley all the way to Washington, and then asked General in Chief Halleck as to the status of his command. Halleck answered today: Pope’s army, being in the vicinity anyway, was being merged into the Army of the Potomac. Pope was out of a job. He was not amused by this development and spent many years complaining about the matter. He did get a new assignment, though: he was sent to the Department of the Northwest, which included Minnesota, which had been undergoing an uprising of the Sioux. Neither Pope nor the people he was supposed to protect were thrilled with this development.

Saturday Sept. 5 1863

Early in the War, the Confederacy had realized that it had neither enough warships nor the design skills or manufacturing capacity to make more. Emissaries had been sent to England to contract with the greatest shipbuilding experts in the world to rectify this problem. The ironclads, known as Laird Ramships, were now nearing completion in the shipyards of Liverpool and Birkenhead. U.S. ambassador Charles Francis Adams therefore called on the British Foreign Minister Lord Russell today and was undiplomatically blunt: if the English released these ships to the Confederacy, “it would be superfluous for me to point out to your Lordship that this is war.” Whether Lord Russell felt any great fear at this threat is unknown, but in fact he was able to assure Adams that the ships had been ordered “detained in port” three days earlier. They were never released to the Confederacy.

Monday Sept. 5 1864

In Petersburg, Lee was becoming increasingly anxious for the return of the forces of Gen. Early from northern Virginia, where he had been sent in an attempt to relieve the pressure on Richmond by threatening Washington. Since the mission, although causing panic in the North, had failed in its objective, Lee had ordered Early to rejoin him as soon as practicable. Early, reluctant to admit that the venture had been pointless, had sent only one corps to Lincoln, that of R.H. Anderson. He had promptly run into the cavalry of Phil Sheridan, and they had settled into battle in the vicinity of Opequon Creek. Both sides wanted nothing more than to get past the other, but neither could find a hole in the enemy’s lines to accomplish this.

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