This Day in the Civil War

Thursday, March 13 1862

Gen. George McClellan held today his first full meeting with his newly-appointed commanders of the various corps of the Army of the Potomac. The corps structure was a replacement for the previous method of organization of the army into just three Grand Divisions. These had proved extremely difficult to maneuver on account of their size. It was hoped that the smaller corps would turn out to be more manageable. Lincoln was pressuring hard for some sort of action in the east, preferably an attack on Richmond, barely 90 miles away. The debate was whether to move to Urbanna, Va., at the mouth of the Rappahannock, and attack from there, or to move via the Peninsula. In a fateful decision, the latter was chosen.

Friday, March 13 1863

The fort built of dirt and cotton bales, named Fort Pemberton, was the target of a second day’s worth of shelling by Federal troops and gunboats. Constructed in just a few days by W. W. Loring at Pemberton’s orders on the Yalobusha River near Greenwood, Miss., and armed with just a few cannon, it had the added difficulty of being on partly flooded ground. Despite these disadvantages, it was well-placed to fire on the Federal vessels, and difficult to hit in return. As long as the cannon could be kept from sinking into the swamp, that is.

Sunday, March 13 1864

The Red River Expedition got seriously underway today as the ships of Admiral D. D. Porter landed Union troops at Simmesport. With the sun barely up, they began to sweep Confederate defenders before them. Simultaneously, gunboats under Phelps got as far up the Red River as the obstructions laid in the water so as to render the waterway impassable. The Union sailors cleared it that same day, and proceeded to bomb Ft. DeRussy.

Monday, March 13 1865

Gen. Robert E. Lee had been lobbying for the measure for quite some time. Other Confederate generals had likewise supported it as the manpower shortage became ever more severe. Inexplicably, President Davis and the Confederate Congress were disinclined to support it until now. However, today the plan was adopted, and these newly recruited troops were soon seen in the streets of Richmond. Their army uniforms were grey--but the troopers were black. Negroes were never quite accepted into the Confederate Army. On the other hand, despite the tremendous bravery of such units as the 54th Mass., blacks were never wholeheartedly accepted into the Union Army either, being required to serve under white officers for the duration of the Civil War.

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