This Day in the Civil War

Thursday, Jan. 23, 1862

As if Missouri did not have enough trouble and woe to contend with, it had U.S. Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck to contend with. Halleck was “commander of the Department of Missouri”, essentially the military governor of the state. As such, he had a wide range of powers and no apparent hesitation about using them. He had suspended habeas corpus several weeks earlier. He had also imposed an assessment, levied on "pro-Southerners", for the relief of pro-Northern refugees from areas of fighting. While there were indeed large numbers of refugees whose homes had been destroyed, or communities were in such disarray that they feared for their lives, this affected adherents of both sides. Payments had been slow in coming, and today he ordered the confiscation of property and even the arrest of “pro-Southerners” who had not yet paid, to make up the difference.

Friday, Jan 23 1863

As the Army of the Potomac continued to slog back to camp after what was even now becoming known as the “Mud March”, U.S. Gen. Ambrose Burnside was quite depressed about the lack of successful conclusion to the project. He came up with a solution, though: he sent a request to Lincoln that Generals Joseph Hooker, William B. Franklin, W. F. Smith and others be fired, demoted, or transferred. Hooker in particular Burnside wanted removed from the service altogether. Lincoln quietly ignored the tirade, and the orders were never acted upon. Although it was little consolation to either Burnside or his wet, exhausted and shivering troops, the movement had caused tremendous consternation among the Confederate commanders.

Saturday, Jan. 23, 1864

President Lincoln announced today a plan which would allow slaveowners in Union territory to manumit their slaves, then re-hire them as free laborers to get plantations and farms back into production. He urged the military commanders of the various departments and territories to support the system and publicize it in their areas. This was just the latest in a succession of plans (what might today be called “trial balloons”) which Lincoln proposed in an attempt to solve the “Negro problem.” Lincoln, like nearly all whites including ardent abolitionists, found it inconceivable that black and white could ever live as equals. The buyout plan did not fly and was quietly abandoned.

Monday, Jan. 23, 1865

Confederate Lieut. Gen. Richard Taylor was appointed today to take over command of the Army of Tennessee, following the resignation of John Bell Hood in the wake of the latter’s disastrous loss of the Battle of Nashville. The army in question, though, was a wreck. The proud Tennesseans had numbered 38,000 less than three months ago. After the disastrous Battle of Franklin, in which six generals were killed in a single day, the army had lost 6200; after Nashville they were down in membership to barely 17,700 men. Many who escaped death, wounding, sickness or capture simply took off for home to protect their families. Taylor’s orders were to take the remnants to the Carolinas to try to stop Sherman’s advance. Barely 5000 made it there.

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