This Day in the Civil War

Friday Sept. 27 1861

A rather rancorous meeting of Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet was held today. As was frequently the case, after the usual business was taken care of, the topic of the gathering turned to the latest activities in the War. As was frequently the case as well, there really wasn’t all that much to talk about, so that’s what they talked about--the notable lack of aggressive moves on the part of the Army of the Potomac and its commander, Gen. George McClellan. There was a widespread feeling that the war should have been long over with by now, and demands were loud to know why it was not. The questions had to be more than a little embarrassing for the guest of honor at the meeting: Gen. George McClellan.

Saturday Sept. 27 1862

Although it it widely believed that the first regiment of what would become known as the United States Colored Troops was the famed 54th Massachusetts (from the movie “Glory”), in fact the first regiment of free blacks was mustered in New Orleans, Louisiana on this date. Gen. Benjamin Butler, who had a rather direct way of dealing with things sometimes, had been the first to force the issue of what to do with black refugees and escaped slaves in the early days of the War. Then, he had persuaded Secretary of War Stanton to designate these displaced blacks as “contraband of war”, to prevent them from being returned to their owners. Now, he enlisted men in the Union Army as the First Regiment, Louisiana Native Guards. The men called themselves the “Chasseurs d’Afrique”, the African Hunters.

Sunday Sept. 27 1863

There existed in the Confederate military a class of operators for whom no good descriptive term exists. They were classified as cavalrymen, but they did not perform the usual functions of cavalry in the military sense of the day--scouting ahead of, and screening the movements of, an army of infantry. These men were usually referred to as “raiders”, and their role was to move quickly to harass, cut lines of communication, pick off stragglers from Union marches, and gather supplies. One of these raiders, Jo Shelby, worked in the Trans-Mississippi so is even less known than some like Moseby and Forrest. Today Shelby attacked Moffat’s Station in Franklin County, Arkansas.

Tuesday Sept. 27 1864

There was fighting in quite a few places in Missouri today. Sterling Price’s invasion out of Arkansas, one of a number of attempts to “reclaim” the state for the Confederacy, was rolling along quite nicely. Today he launched an all-out assault on Fort Davidson, at Pilot Knob, Mo. Twelve hundred Federal troops withstood the charge during the day; after nightfall their commander, Brig. Gen. Thomas Ewing Jr. decided the position was untenable and evacuated secretly. Further west, the “raider” William Anderson led an attack on Centralia, Mo. He looted, burned, and shot 24 unarmed Union soldiers. Anderson was known as “Bloody Bill”, and two of the 30 men in his band were the James Brothers, so it was perhaps not surprising that strict attention to military rules was not observed.

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