This Day in the Civil War

Tuesday Oct. 1 1861

Centerville, Virginia, appropriately enough was the center of the Confederate war effort today as a council of war was held. Participants included Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, Gen. Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, and Gen. G. W. Smith, as well as President Jefferson Davis. In a significant action in the North, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles came to an important decision today. Welles had been under pressure to issue “letters of marque”--essentially licenses to private ship captains to commit piracy on Confederate shipping they encountered on the high seas. Welles announced today that such letters would not be given. This was not entirely moral high-mindedness. Letters of marque could only be issued against an enemy nation, so to do this, he said, would be tantamount to recognizing the Confederacy as a separate country.

Wednesday Oct. 1 1862

The release of Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was causing excitement in North and South despite the fact that it wouldn’t take effect until the first of the year and didn’t free a single slave besides. Abolitionists were angry that it didn’t do more; others in the North were concerned that the aim of the war was changing from restoration of the Union to the freeing of the slaves. Richmond, on the other hand, was unanimous in denouncing the move, on two grounds. On the one hand, as the Richmond Examiner pointed out, changing the status of slaves from property to citizens would “destroy four thousand millions of our property”. Besides that, they noted, with this encouragement, slaves might rise in insurrection.

Thursday Oct. 1 1863

Gen. William Rosecrans still sat in Chattanooga, army intact but unable to move without running into Gen. Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. Although immobile, they had been reasonably well fed and supplied throughout their ordeal. This situation took a turn for the worse today as the Confederate cavalry of Gen. Joseph Wheeler was wreaking havoc in the Union rear. Communications lines, both telegraphic and messenger, were disrupted by cutting or capture. Worse, every supply train sent out was now going to feed the Southerners instead of the Federals as they fell into Wheeler’s hands and were diverted. The 11th Corps of the Army of the Potomac, along with parts of the 12th Corps, had already passed through Nashville, travelling by train to relieve Rosecrans.

Saturday Oct. 1 1864

Mrs. Rose O’Neal Greenhow is a relatively famous person of the War years, about whom relatively little is known. She was arrested on many occasions over the course of the war years, on a number of charges or none at all. The actual offense of which she was suspected was espionage, but to try a woman on a capital charge would have brought on an uproar. She was deported several times to the South, and had finally gone on a mission to Europe. She was returning today when her ship, the British blockade runner Condor, ran aground while being pursued by the USS Niphon outside New Inlet, N.C. Carrying papers and a reputed $2000 in gold in a bag around her neck, she demanded to be put ashore in a small boat. The boat capsized in the surf and, pulled under by the gold, Mrs. Greenhow was drowned.

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