This Day in the Civil War

Saturday Sept. 21 1861

As little military action took place on this day, it may help the reader to take note of who was where preparing to do what at this time near the end of the first summer of the War. Robert E Lee, CSA is in the Kanawha Valley of what (at this time) is still western Virginia, around Big Sewell Mountain. Not too far away from Lee was William Rosecrans, USA, with an army of his own. The two would soon clash. Gen Albert Sidney Johnston issued a call to his state of Tennessee, requesting the recruitment of 30,000 men. Assisting him was the only ordained bishop to gain the rank of General in either army, Leonidas K. Polk, also a Tennessean and distant relative of President James Polk. Gen. O. M. Mitchel assumed command today of the Federal Department of Ohio, a huge territory covering areas from western Pennsylvania to Illinois.

Sunday Sept. 21 1862

Despite the best efforts of Jonathan Letterman, medical director of the Army of the Potomac, to secure buildings for use as hospital areas before the battle, the carnage had been on a scale to render all attempts at preparation futile. Today, four days after the battle itself, wounded were still being found on the battlefield, and those who had received immediate treatment were in almost as bad condition. A sergeant of the 15th Mass., who had had his leg amputated the night of the 17th, wrote in his diary today, “I did not know [I] was capable of enduring so much pain. How very meager are accommodations--no chamber pots & nobody to find or rig up one. How ludicrous for 2 score amputated men to help themselves with diarrhea.”

Monday Sept. 21 1863

Gen. George Thomas, the “Rock of Chickamauga” as he would come to be known as soon as the newspaper stories were written up, continued in that role today. Having held the core of the Union army together yesterday on Snodgrass Hill, he had retired towards Chattanooga after nightfall. Today he again held the defenses of the city with the remnants of the Army of the Cumberland. His commanding officer, Rosecrans, was frantically preparing the city for siege. Bragg, commanding the Confederates, issued orders for a pursuit before the defenses could be completed, then cancelled the order. Yet another chance to annihilate the Union forces was lost.

Wednesday Sept. 21 1864

The pursuit of Jubal Early “up” the Shenandoah Valley continued today. Having resisted the move back to Lee in Petersburg for as long as he could, Early now was in a desperate race to do exactly that. The impediment was Phil Sheridan, who accomplished two things today. First, there was the fighting: Early had fortified Fisher’s Hill, and Sheridan had to advance slowly there. Additional actions took place at Strasburg, and at Front Royal, where the Confederates managed to keep Sheridan’s men out of the Luray Valley for one more day. After nightfall, Sheridan detached Gen. Crook and one corps to move around the left flank of Early.

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