This Day in the Civil War

Friday Oct 11 1861

Miscellaneous personnel changes and reassignments were made today as the first summer of the war was evaluated. Gen. William T. Sherman took over the Department of the Cumberland from Gen. Robert Anderson, who had never really recovered after the surrender of Ft. Sumter, finally suffering a nervous breakdown. Gen. William S. Rosecrans was appointed head of the Department of Western Virginia. This was of tremendous political importance as the area was overwhelmingly Union in support, and would eventually secede from the Secessionists in Richmond. Finally, Gen. O. M. Mitchel was assigned to lead an expedition into the Unionist area of eastern Tennessee. Mitchel was not much of a military man: his previous occupations had been astronomer and popular lecturer on science.

Saturday Oct. 11 1862

Captain Raphael Semmes, Confederate terror of the seas, took yet another prize out in the North Atlantic today. The CSS Alabama took on the Manchester off the coast of Nova Scotia, and in a competition between an armed warship and an unarmed cargo vessel, the outcome was pretty much as you would suspect. Interestingly, Captain Semmes noted in his log the fact that his victim was carrying fresh newspapers out of New York. “I learned from them where all the enemy’s gun boats were, and what they were doing,” he said. “Perhaps this was the only war in which the newspapers ever explained, beforehand, all the movements of armies and fleets, to the enemy.” It would not be the last such war.

Sunday Oct. 11 1863

There were a large number of election contests decided today, and they were watched with at least as much attention in the South as the North. The off-year races were for governorships of the great industrial states, and in most the contests were clearly between “peace” candidates and those who supported fighting to restore the Union. In state after state the peace candidates went down to defeat. Clement Vallandigham lost to War Democrat John Brough in Ohio, although Vallandigham had the added handicap of having to campaign from Canada, since he had been exiled from the US for his antiwar views. Another winner was Andrew Curtin in Pennsylvania, a staunch Union supporter. Those in the South who had hoped for a wave of anti-war sentiment to sweep the North were bitterly disappointed.

Tuesday Oct. 11 1864

Surely, they thought in Richmond, surely this would be the year it would sink in to the voters of the North. After Manassas, after Chancellorsville, after Gettysburg....after all the blood and slaughter and disease and death, surely they would decide that it was not worth fighting any longer to keep a part of the country that wanted to leave. Actually Lincoln in Washington was deeply afraid that the voters might think exactly that way. The elections were today for some governorships as well as the House and one-third of the Senate. Lincoln stayed half the night in the telegraph room of the War Department waiting for the results to come in. Again, the last hope of the South was dashed: support for Republicans was far stronger than had been expected, as Oliver Morton won the governor’s office in Indiana, and Republican gains were made in the House and Senate both. The war would not end by negotiation.

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