This Day in the Civil War

Monday, March 10 1862

In the aftermath of the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac, the captains of both vessels were under medical care for (relatively) minor wounds suffered in the battle. Lt. Worden, who had been commander of the Monitor, had the misfortune to have a damaged eyeball. President Lincoln today paid a call on his hospital room to congratulate him on the battle and the victory. Since the results were in fact fairly inconclusive, both sides could preen about the action.

Tuesday, March 10 1863

In the early days of the War Between the States, the assumption had been common in the North that any military action to reunify the country would be swift, neat and uncomplicated. Recruiting agents had easy work as men on both sides flocked to the colors seeking excitement more than anything. After it became clear that the war would be neither short nor tidy, the government had resorted to quotas, and states, counties and towns offered bounty money to get men to enlist to fill them. Now that the grim reality was known to all, President Lincoln was obliged to offer an amnesty for those who had had enough. Any man who returned to his unit by April 1 would not be prosecuted. Any who did not would be regarded as a deserter, liable to be shot.

Thursday, March 10 1864

Newly commissioned Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant was today given an additional title: Commander of the Armies of the United States. He did not pick up the paperwork in person, though, as he was already in Virginia holding a rather touchy meeting with Gen. George G. Meade, who still held the title of commander of the Army of the Potomac. The two needed to work out ways to work together, as Grant planned to operate in the field with an army that had been commanded by Meade since just before Gettysburg. In fact the two worked out one of the great partnerships of the War when Meade, unlike his more egotistical predecessors, sent Grant a statement offering his services in whatever capacity Grant thought he would be most useful. In the end Grant kept him in command of the Army of the Potomac, which freed Grant from many onerous administrative duties.

Friday, March 10 1865

Gen. William T. Sherman’s forces were still working on their approach to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Their progress was being considerably slowed by the terrain. The roads were mud with an unusually high percentage of sand. This meant that wagons could only travel if the roads were “corduroyed”, or paved with logs. As the rain increased even this was not enough: the road itself would sink after only a few wagons passed over them. More logs were added on top of the sunken ones, but this was not only an incredibly tedious process, but the supply of suitable logs along the roadside was not infinite. The coordinated activity on the nearby Cape Fear River was nearly as difficult. The river, according to the ship captains, was “very narrow and torturous, with a strong current”. Overhanging trees just complicated matters further, to the extent that branches would knock smokestacks partly or completely off the boats. Paddlewheels were fouled by rubbish. The gunship Chickamauga gave up the ghost entirely, blocking the river at Indian Wells.

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