This Day in the Civil War

Wednesday Nov. 6 1861

The first general national election for the government of the Confederate States of America took place on this day. The Constitution specified that a president and vice president should be elected, both to hold office for a term of six years and not to be eligible for the same office again. Terms and conditions and qualifications for most other offices, such as the House and Senate, were determined by the individual states. By and large they were the same as those of the US. The winner, Jefferson Davis, belonged to the Democratic Party, a rather unnecessary distinction since there weren’t any other parties. Eligible voters included most individuals who weren’t black, female, or excessively poor.

Thursday Nov. 6 1862

Yesterday had seen the biggest shakeup in the North since the formation of the Army of the Potomac, the firing of its creator and first and only leader, Gen. George McClellan. He had been replaced by Gen. Ambrose Burnside, who was having a very uncomfortable day moving into a new job. Meanwhile the South was not to be outdone in shuffling commands. The Army of Northern Virginia promoted James Longstreet from major general to lieutenant general and bestowed on him command of the First Corps of the Army. Likewise, Thomas Jonathan Jackson, known to press and peers as “Stonewall”, moved from and to the same ranks as Longstreet, the only difference being that he was given command of the Second Corps.

Friday Nov. 6 1863

The Battle(s) for Charleston Harbor were often as much a combat against obstructions, intentional as well as natural, which had the effect or stopping or slowing the progress of ships long enough for firepower to be brought to bear on them. Admiral John Dahlgren had the task today of testing a peculiar new design of torpedo meant to remove these obstructions. A cast-iron cylinder 10 inches in diameter and 23 feet long, it hung underneath a raft which was pushed ahead of Dahlgren’s USS Patapsco by two long booms. This peculiar propulsion made the ship wildly hard to maneuver. When it was, painfully, pushed into the proper position and the 600 pounds of explosive in the torpedo were detonated, it threw a column of water 40 feet in the air, most of which dropped back down onto the deck of the Patapsco. Unimpressed as well as damp, Dahlgren recommended the device be sent back to the drawing board of its creator, John Ericsson.

Sunday Nov. 6 1864

Not all of the fighting of this war was conducted on battlefields by any means. In fact, as the war dragged on and the South encountered more reverses in the conventional military sense, the more open their leaders were to what would today be called “fifth column”, or guerilla, or even urban-terrorist operations. With rumors flying that New York City was to be the target of arsonists set to burn the town to the ground on Election Day, municipal officials everywhere in the North were somewhat edgy. Today there were arrested a number of “Confederate ringleaders” in Chicago. The charge was that they were conspiring to take over the city, which would be followed by the liberation of prisoners of war being held in Camp Douglas nearby.

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