This Day in the Civil War

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 1862

Edwin McMasters Stanton was confirmed by Congress as Secretary of War, two days after being nominated. Formerly Attorney General (during the Buchanan Administration), the choice had political elements of a most interesting nature. Stanton had made a number of public statements exceedingly critical of Lincoln. Moreover, he was quite well known to be a friend of Gen. McClellan, who was not devoid of political dreams of his own. Stanton would be a controversial figure in history--held by some analysts to be sneaky, dishonest and underhanded; regarded by others as one of the prime movers in the victory of the Union in the War. It is entirely possible that both are true.

Thursday, Jan. 15, 1863

President Abraham Lincoln was not solely concerned with overactive politicians and underactive generals. In fact, although under tremendous pressure and allegedly prone to depression, he nevertheless had a streak of intellectual and scientific curiosity which occasionally drove him to micro-manage subjects not precisely under his responsibility. Today a memo crossed his desk he took a personal interest in. It seemed that the Union cavalry was having difficulty keeping such massive numbers of horses as it needed, fed. Lincoln today made inquiries about testing concentrated horse feed He also authorized testing of a supposedly improved variety of gunpowder.

Friday, Jan. 15, 1864

Southern newspapers in this year were becoming nearly propaganda outlets for the Confederacy and the war effort. Exhortations for the people to stand fast, and gird for the struggle to come, were necessary. Off the public stage, Confederate Sec. of the Navy Mallory assigned Cmdr. James Cooke, CSN, to command the massive new warship CSS “Albermarle”, which was nearing completion in Halifax, N.C. Lincoln, on the other hand, was attending more and more to plans for re-incorporating states into the Union as soon as possible after they were occupied by Federal forces.

Sunday, Jan. 15, 1865

Despite two days of relentless bombardment, Confederate forces wreaked havoc on the Naval landing force, killing many of the officers (who were leading the charge) and repelling the attack. In an unusual move, the first Union officer to breach the parapet of the installation was Navy Capt. Thomas Selfridge, but he was eventually driven off. As the southern defenders paused to celebrate this repulse they realized, horrified, that the Federal Army wing of the amphibious attack had occupied the other end of the fort. When they tried to rush to that end of the fort, pinpoint shelling from the Navy vessels began, killing and wounding many. It still took hours of hand to hand fighting to drive the last of Col. Lamb’s Confederates from the fort. Despite being himself wounded in the hip, Lamb did not finally surrender until nightfall. The fort’s only hope of succor would have been for Gen. Bragg to attack the US forces on the Cape Fear River side of the fort, but Bragg did not move.

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