This Day in the Civil War

Tuesday Nov. 12 1861

The early days of the war were notable for a shortage of ships on both sides. The American navy before the war was not big anyway. A large number of ships were destroyed at their moorings, sometimes by Northerners to keep them from being sailed South, in other cases by Southerners to keep them from the use of the Union. This had led to great business in the shipyards of Europe, and both sides scurried to replace the losses. The Confederate-owned steamer Fingal was one such. Recently bought in England, she was loaded with military supplies. The Northern blockade effort was still a bit feeble, and she sailed today without much difficulty into the harbor of Savannah. Fingal would later be converted into the CSS Atlanta.

Wednesday Nov. 12 1862

The remarkable Mary Ann “Mother” Bickerdyke had been a middle-aged widow and botanic physician in Galesburg, Illinois when the war broke out. When her church sent her to take a load of medical supplies to their regiment in training in Cairo, she had been so horrified by the awful treatment of the sick that she simply appointed herself director of hospital services. Against the opposition of the Army doctors, who were almost exclusively surgeons and therefore had neither knowledge of or interest in treatments for sickness, she had worked tirelessly to provide clean quarters, nutritious food and some semblance of nursing care for the thousands of victims of disease. Today she went on leave. In her case this consisted of a fundraising tour among the bankers and other rich folk of Chicago.

Thursday Nov. 12 1863

The Army of the Cumberland was eating better these days, thanks to the opening of the “cracker line” which greatly shortened the distances required for food to be brought in. Mere avoidance of starvation, however, did not mean that they were ready for battle to break them out of Chattanooga, where they had been besieged since the debacle of Chickamauga Creek. Gen. U. S. Grant, who had fired commanding Gen. Rosecrans and taken over the scene himself, was awaiting one final factor he felt necessary to get the show on the road: Gen. William T. Sherman and his 15th Army Corps. That unit was accustomed to fighting and winning. The other reinforcements which had been provided, two Army of the Potomac corps under Gen. Hooker, had not had such good fortune in combat.

Saturday Nov. 12 1864

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman had taken Atlanta once already. He had had to backtrack for the last couple of weeks to dispose of threats in the rear area, primarily from Gen. John Hood’s forces. These having been dispersed, or at least reduced to where Gen. Thomas was able to cope with them from Nashville, Sherman intentionally cut his own lines and headed back to central Georgia. His four corps totaled 60,000 infantry and around 5500 artillery pieces. They set out to rendezvous with the Federal forces Sherman had left to occupy Atlanta. They had been carrying out their assignment in the deserted town. They had orders to spare private homes and churches. The rest of the city was in the process of being destroyed.

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