This Day in the Civil War

Saturday Oct. 26 1861

No, this was not a covered wagon, but a ship. In the early days of the War there were simply not enough warships, on either side, to accomplish the work that needed to be done. Therefore, civilian vessels were impressed into service and outfitted for war as best as could be done. One such, the USS Conestoga, officially a gunboat because a few cannon had been bolted to her deck, carried Union troops up the Cumberland River today to wage an attack on Saratoga, Kentucky. The assault, in fact, was successful.

Sunday Oct. 26 1862

It had taken almost daily telegrams, sometimes more than one per day and of increasing levels of impatience, sweet-talking, sarcasm, pleading, and finally direct orders, but at long last McClellan was on the move. The Army of the Potomac, which had sat essentially immobile since the Battle of Antietam, commenced today to move across the river for which they were named. The action marked the first large-scale intrusion into Confederate territory by Union forces in more than a month. Lincoln could finally send a telegram to Gen. George McClellan telling him that he “rejoiced” at the news of the army movement.

Monday Oct. 26 1863

Operations got under way today to open U.S. Grant’s planned “Cracker Line”, to get supplies more directly into the Union army trapped in Chattanooga. If direct attack had been possible it would have been tried long since, so a certain amount of sneaking around seemed preferable. At 3 a.m. 24 pontoon boats full of Ohioans and the 1st Michigan Engineers drifted silently with the current of the Tennessee River around Moccasin Point opposite Raccoon Mountain. As the mountain was quite infested with Confederates, the party linked up with Brig. Gen. John Basil Turchin’s brigade on the Point. Turchin’s men had likewise marched in the dark to the rendezvous. The first step to establish the Line had been taken.

Wednesday Oct. 26 1864

The Army of Tennessee was one of the Confederacy’s finest fighting forces, but it was cursed for most of its existence by leaders whose qualities did not compare to those of the fighting men. Today those leaders required the army to “demonstrate” on one bank of the Tennessee River, across from which was the Union-occupied city of Decatur, Ala. This demonstration consisted primarily of marching around and occasionally firing off a volley of gunshots, to give the impression of a larger force and possibly alarm the Union commander into falling back from the position. The Union commander did not do anything of the sort, so the Confederates abandoned hopes of crossing there and proceeded westward to another ford.

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