This Day in the Civil War

Thursday, Jan. 30, 1862

The launching of the USS “ Monitor” made this a significant day in the history of naval warfare. The first warship constructed with a coating of iron was tipped into the water at Greenpoint, Long Island, NY. Crowds cheered and celebrated, and nearby vessels fired salutes. Designed by John Ericsson, the ship marked yet another example of the speed that technological advances make under the pressure of wartime. In other nautical matters today, troops under U.S. Grant’s command boarded gunboats to make their progress up the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers in Kentucky. This was not so much to enable the men to move in comfort as it was to enable them to move at all; the roads were pure mud and marching would have been impossible.

Friday, Jan. 30, 1863

Gen. U.S. Grant, who had been under pressure from accusations of crooked procurements by his quartermasters and drunkenness by himself, today announced that he was assuming personal command of the Federal attack upon Vicksburg. He told Admiral David D. Porter that he intended to dig a canal through the swamps at Lake Providence, La. to allow troops to attack the city from the rear. In fact, the hope was that when the new channel was opened the river would scour it wider and deeper, and eventually cut off the bight on which Vicksburg sat, leaving it high and dry. For now they would settle for a ditch wide enough to get gunboats through on a path that did not bring them under the guns on the cliffs. Since Porter was, by some accounts, the originator of the rear-attack theory, he was not inclined to complain.

Saturday, Jan. 30, 1864

This was the day on which several important Union departments officially changed hands. The Federal Department of Missouri was a black hole for Union commanders, into which they tended to disappear, never to be seen in high command again. The whole state, although officially “Union” throughout the war, was a hotbed of factionalism and political infighting. Today saw the departure of Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield. He was succeeded by Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, who had been found lacking in battlefield skills after Chickamauga and so was sent to administration. In addition, Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele assumed full command of the Department of Arkansas.

Monday, Jan. 30, 1865

Serving under Gen. William T. Sherman was Maj. George W. Nichols, of the Army of the Tennessee. Gifted with a more literary turn of mind than was common for a military man, he also harbored just a teensy bit of hostility towards the state he and his men were crossing into today. He wrote a letter today: “The actual invasion of South Carolina has begun...(Carolina) has commenced to pay an installment, long overdue, on her debt to justice and humanity. With the help of God we will have principal and interest before we leave her borders. This cowardly traitor state, secure from harm, as she thought, in her central position, with hellish haste dragged her Southern sisters into the caldron of secession. Little did she dream that the hated flag would again wave over her soil, but this bright morning a thousand Union banners are floating in the breeze....”

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