This Day in the Civil War

Sunday Nov. 10 1861

Jefferson Davis wrote to Gen. Joseph Eggleston Johnston today, serving with his armies in Manassas, Virginia. On the one hand, Davis expressed surprise that the army had not grown at a faster pace since the stunning victory at Bull Run. The assumption had been that militia units and local volunteers would flock to the Army of Northern Virginia to be incorporated under an overall command organization. Many, however, wished to stay with commanders they knew, and progress was slow. Davis, although trying to be encouraging, admitted “we are restricted in our capacity to reinforce by want of arms.” The problem was, there weren’t enough guns to go around.

Monday Nov. 10 1862

There were certainly many ports along the east coast of North America where the captain of a storm-tossed ship could expect to confront Confederate flags if he came into port--but Halifax, Nova Scotia? Commander Maury of the Confederate States Navy had sailed out of sunny Bermuda almost a week earlier. As is not uncommon in the Atlantic in November, the passage north was not an easy one. But when they steamed into the magnificent Canadian harbor they were heartened to see, as Maury wrote to his wife: “This is a place of 25 or 30,000 inhabitants. They are strongly ‘secesh’, here. The Confederate flag has been flying from the top of the hotel all day, in honor, I am told, of our arrival.”

Tuesday Nov. 10 1863

Captain Raphael Semmes, Confederate States Navy, and his CSS Alabama, had been the terror of US-flag shipping all over the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean to the Arctic waters. So many Union ships were now hunting him there that prudence suggested a change of venue, so he had shifted operations to the Pacific. The news had not gotten to all the ships at sea yet, and there was not a lot that their captains could do about it if they did find out. This was the position in which the captain of the clipper ship Cutter found himself today. Sailing off the Gaspar Strait, East Indies, bound from Japan to New York, the Cutter found herself in Semmes’ grasp, and after the crew had been taken off, the ship was sunk.

Thursday Nov. 10 1864

For all his log-cabin image, Abraham Lincoln was as fiercely political a man as any to occupy the Presidency, and he had just won what he knew would be his last election, a second term in the White House. However, he was also was a much deeper thinker than his homespun image would imply. After hearing yet another victory serenade today he spoke to the crowd: “It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies. We cannot have free government without elections, and if the rebellion could force us to forgo, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.”

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