This Day in the Civil War

Saturday Sept. 7 1861

Gen. John C. Fremont was not having a good time in Missouri. He had only been appointed to command the district in early August, and already he had declared martial law, announced his intention to confiscate the property of secessionists and then have them court-martialed and shot, and for a show-stopper announced his own Emancipation Proclamation, applying only to Missouri. Lincoln cancelled this latter, but was coming under increasing pressure to rein Fremont in further. The furor hit the fan today when an audit showed that he had, in barely a month, spent $12 million. Some of this was for gunboats and uniforms, but an amazing amount was spent on “fortifications”, food and parties.

Sunday Sept. 7 1862

Everybody else in the North knew where the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was heading: straight towards wherever that Northerner happened to be. Harrisburg was in an uproar. Stomachs and financial markets were in turmoil in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Everybody was sure where Lee was headed except for George McClellan, who had no clue and therefore no choice but to keep the Army of the Potomac edging ever further to the right. The one job he knew he had was to protect Washington, D.C., and as long as he kept his army between that and General Lee, no one could accuse him of failing in his duty. He would be happy to fight Lee, but had to find him first. Gen. JEB Stuart’s cavalry was making this difficult.

Monday Sept. 7 1863

Poor old Fort Sumter had definitely seen better days. Admiral John A. B. Dahlgren sailed by it today and said it looked “from seaward...rather that of a steep, sandy island than ..a fort.” Dahlgren was greatly relieved to find that what had been expected to be a bitter and bloody battle for Battery Wagner and Battery Gregg had turned into a simple occupation of Morris Island when it was discovered the batteries had been evacuated overnight. He did perhaps get a bit carried away, though, when he sent a message to Beauregard in Charleston, in which he demanded that Sumter be likewise surrendered. Beauregard wrote back, formally declining this invitation and then, somewhat sardonically, suggesting that Dahlgren was invited to “...take it if he could.”

Wednesday Sept. 7 1864

Gen. William T. Sherman evacuated the city of Atlanta, Ga. today. He didn’t order his army to pack up and leave, he ordered the civilian population to do so. There were 446 families left in town, adding up to some 1600 people; due to the deadline of the order they had to leave not only their homes but virtually all their possessions behind. Sherman was kind enough to specify that they could go either North or South, just as long as they went. The motive was not wanton cruelty--Sherman pointed out that he had barely enough food for his own troops and could not possibly feed civilians too--but he also pointed out, “If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war and not popularity-seeking.”

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