This Day in the Civil War

Monday, March 17 1862

From a starting point at Alexandria, Va., Gen. George McClellan packed up his things and went for a trip. The things in question were virtually the entire Army of the Potomac, whose initial destination was the vicinity of the James and York Rivers. He had strict orders to leave sufficient forces to guard the capital, which he very nearly did not do. The entire excursion would come to be known as the Peninsula Campaign.

Tuesday, March 17 1863

The Battle of Kelly’s Ford took place on this day. William Woods Averell took his Union cavalry unit across the Rappahannock at the aforenamed crossing and engaged Confederate soldiers in fierce combat in the brush-covered terrain. The losses were 78, Union, 133 Confederate. The best-known casualty was John Pelham, artillerist, whose talent had been spectacular at Fredericksburg. He was not even a combatant, being present only as an observer.

Thursday, March 17 1864

Never a big fan of paperwork, it took until today for Gen. U.S. Grant to formally assume the job of commander of all the armies of the United States, which he had had for several days. To finish his conference with Sherman, Grant took him to Cincinnati to talk in private. They settled the details of what became known as the Anaconda Plan, which--eventually--squeezed the Confederacy out of existence.

Friday, March 17 1865

Mobile, Ala., had had Union troops march around it on nearly all sides and all directions, except into it. Union Maj. Gen. E.R.S. Canby planned to change all that. He gathered up his forces, which numbered in the vicinity of 32,000 men, and started marching one group from Mobile Point and another from Pensacola. Available for the defense of the city were perhaps 2800 Confederates.

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