This Day in the Civil War

Sunday Sept. 22 1861

John Charles Fremont was not having a happy career as military administrator of St. Louis. First he had declared martial law, then followed this heavy-handed maneuver with a mini-Emancipation Proclamation for the state of Missouri. This had brought down the wrath of Frank Blair Jr., not to mention the Lincoln Administration, upon his head. Over the last week the dispute had escalated until Fremont had had Blair arrested. What Fremont was supposed to have done last week was fight Sterling Price’s Confederate force, and rescue the Federals holed up in Lexington. The news of their surrender to Price reached St. Louis today, and even Fremont’s supporters (both of them) were disgusted.

Monday Sept. 22 1862

Abraham Lincoln today issued to his Cabinet the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation. In detail the move accomplished nothing: it stated that “persons held as slaves” in any state “in rebellion against the United States” should be freed. Since by definition United States laws and directives did not obtain in these areas, the Proclamation freed no slaves at all. In any case it was not even scheduled to take effect until Jan. 1, 1863. The major significance of the Proclamation was seen as giving moral justification to the War which up till now had been simply to restore the Union to its previous membership. It also was expected to fend off any European thoughts of recognizing the Confederacy as a separate nation.

Tuesday Sept. 22 1863

While the cleanup continued after the clash at Chickamauga, we turn our attention today to a lesser-known nautical incident. It seems a few days ago Acting Master David Nicols of the Confederate States Navy set out on his small cutter Teaser from Mobile, Ala, and sailed to South West Pass on the Mississippi River. There, Nichols and his 19 crewmen worked their way through the marshlands to a Federal coal depot, where rested the recently refueled and restocked USS Leviathan, a tugboat. Nichols simply stole the boat and headed back to Mobile. Awe at his creativity did not prevent the depot supervisors from giving the alarm, and 40 miles offshore the USS De Soto intercepted the vessels, repossessing one and capturing the other. Nichols and his crew were likewise taken into custody.

Thursday Sept. 22 1864

The battle in the Shenandoah Valley continued today. Early’s Confederates held a rise known as Fisher’s Hill, with Phil Sheridan facing him there and down a creek called Tumbling Run from the heights of Strasburg. The two battled for most of the day until late afternoon when Sheridan’s trap was sprung. He had sent a corps last night under George Crook around the Confederate left, and at this moment Crook’s men attacked, taking the entrenchments on the flank and rear. Alexander “Sandie” Pendleton, who had fought so well for Stonewall Jackson in this valley, was mortally wounded in the fighting. Early’s men fled four miles further south before rallying. Numbering 12,000 a week ago the battles of Winchester and today at Fisher’s Hill had cut this number almost in half.

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