This Day in the Civil War

Tuesday Oct. 15 1861

Merriwether Jeff Thompson wanted badly to have a military career. He applied to West Point and the Virginia Military Institute but, alas, was turned down by both. The beginning of the War found him in Missouri, so he rounded up a battalion of volunteers and offered them to the secessionist governor Claiborne Jackson, but even Jackson turned him down. Undeterred, Thompson simply promoted himself to General and took his men freelance. Yesterday he called for the people of southeast Missouri to rise up against the Yankees. Today he went out and burned the Big River Bridge, near Potosi, Mo. Thompson would become known in some circles as the “Swamp Fox of the Confederacy.”

Wednesday Oct. 15 1862

No big battles marred this day, but little ones popped up all over the landscape, from Fort Gibson in Indian Territory to the Apalachicola River in Florida, where a small flotilla of Union ships ran up the waterway to capture a blockade runner through a hail of gunfire from shore batteries. In between were actions, skirmishes, operations and general acts of violence in Tennessee near Neely’s Bend on the Cumberland River; Crab Orchard and Barren Mound, Kentucky, and near Carrsville, Virginia. Admiral David Farragut, USN, reported to his superiors that Galveston, Corpus Christi, and Sabine City, Texas were in Union possession, a statement which turned out to be somewhat premature.

Thursday Oct. 15 1863

The CSS Hunley was a most ungainly vessel, not surprising in view of the fact that parts of it had started life as a steam boiler. Horace L. Hunley, financier and creative thinker, looked at this cylinder and saw a submarine, and after much tinkering, cutting, installation of a crank and a screw which the crank would turn, and other necessities, it was time for action. She sailed out into Charleston Harbor with Hunley himself at the helm. The official report stated “The boat...disappeared at 9:35 a.m. As soon as she sunk, air bubbles were seen to rise to the surface of the water, and from this fact it is supposed the hole in the top of the boat by which the men entered was not properly closed.” Despite the fact that she had already killed one other crew earlier, the Hunley was raised again, although with the intention that she be used as a ram rather than a submersible.

Saturday Oct. 15 1864

Gen. Jo Shelby, unlike M. Jeff Thompson, had a real commission in a real army, and was operating today under the overall command of Gen. Sterling Price’s campaign to take the state of Missouri into the Confederacy, or at any rate out of the Union. Today, Shelby, operating on a detached campaign, assaulted the garrison at Sedalia, Mo. The defending militiamen did not give a very outstanding account of themselves; in the words of one report they “seemed confused.” In the other arm of the campaign, Price’s men occupied the town of Paris, Mo., and some fighting occurred near Glasgow.

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