This Day in the Civil War

Saturday Nov. 30 1861

The “Trent Affair”, as it was beginning to be called on both sides of the Atlantic, was rapidly turning from a glorious triumph for the US Navy, particularly Captain Charles Wilkes of the USS San Jacinto, into a hideous embarrassment for the US diplomatic corps. Today the British Foreign Secretary, John, Lord Russell, composed a letter to be sent to Lord Lyons, the minister (ambassador) to the United States. In it he directed Lyons to inform the American government that if the Confederate ministers Mason and Slidell were not released to British custody, and if an apology for their seizure from a British ship were not forthcoming, Lyon was to close the embassy and return to London with the entire legation.

Sunday Nov. 30 1862

Captain Raphael Semmes, Confederate States Navy, was the most feared commerce raider of the war. His mission was not to fight United States warships in combat, but to work amounted to the flip side of the Union blockade of Southern shipping. He attacked any ship owned by an American, or headed for an American port, and seized it. He was extremely courteous by the standards of the day: he never killed the crews he captured, and in fact on many occasions would put everyone aboard the last ship captured for the day and turn it loose on bond, rather than burn it. He had wreaked as much havoc as he could in the waters of the North Atlantic, and besides it was getting cold and stormy there this time of year. He moved his base of operation to the Leeward Islands, and celebrated by taking the Porter Cook today. This one he burned.

Monday Nov. 30 1863

Gen. Braxton Bragg had been commander of the Army of Tennessee almost since its inception, and the Army of Mississippi prior to that. His major triumph had been at the battle of Chickamauga, which had bottled up Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland in Chattanooga for a good long time. The breakthrough had finally come, though, and a few days ago the disaster at Missionary Ridge had been the final straw. He had submitted a letter to President Jefferson Davis asking to be relived of command. His friendship with Davis was of many years standing, though, and perhaps he thought the request would be denied, as similar requests from Robert E. Lee had been. It was, however, accepted today, and Bragg was directed to turn over command to Gen. William Joseph Hardee.

Wednesday Nov. 30 1864

Confederate General John Bell Hood had been searching for Union General John Schofield for quite some time. He had the misfortune to catch him today, at Franklin, Tenn., and after Schofield’s men had had time to dig in and prepare positions. Starting in late afternoon the charges began, over two miles of open ground. Hood hit the first Union line, and after a time it fell back. Hood took this as a sign of success, not realizing that the withdrawal was planned, and led to a second, even better dug-in, Union line. This one did not break, and the battle was brutal. Five Confederate generals died this day: States Rights Gist, H.B. Granbury, John Adams, O.F. Strahl, and, possibly the worst loss the South could have sustained, the brilliant Patrick Cleburne. Another, John C. Carter, sustained wounds that would prove mortal. In the army the losses were just as horrendous: 6300 casualties out of an attacking force of 27,000, including 54 irreplaceable regimental commanders lost.

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