This Day in the Civil War

Tuesday, March 18 1862

Very nearly all the high cabinet positions in the Confederate government changed hands today. Judah Benjamin, who had been criticized frequently for his handling of the War Department, was shifted to Secretary of State. The criticism followed him to his new job, even though he performed brilliantly; the fact of the matter was that many Southerners were uncomfortable with a Jew in a position of such authority. The newly appointed head of the Department of War was George W. Randolph of Virginia. Gen. Thomas Bragg was replaced by Thomas Watts. The party who started the whole shuffle, ex Secretary of State R. M. T. Hunter, departed for the Senate.

Wednesday, March 18 1863

The financial markets of Paris were presented with a new investment opportunity today as the financiers House of Erlanger offered to buyers three million British pounds’ worth of Confederate bonds. The instruments were to be repaid over a period of twenty years. Although they became at the time prime examples of why investments involve risk, the holder’s descendants have reason to be happy--the bonds themselves are worth a great deal in the antiquities market today. The bonds were indeed quickly subscribed and purchased, giving not only much-needed revenue to the Richmond government but increasing hopes that recognition by European governments must surely follow soon.

Friday, March 18 1864

A number of groups, collectively called the Sanitary Commission was, during the war years, the closest thing the United States had to a department of public health. They supplied clothing, blankets, wholesome food, and care for the sick. Although the leadership of these commissions (and the related but separate Christian Commission) was of course primarily male, most of the workers were women. Like any charitable private group their biggest problem was often fundraising. They held “Sanitary Fairs”, often featuring prominent speakers. President Lincoln said at one today “if all that has been said...since the creation of the world in praise of women applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during the war."

Saturday, March 18 1865

The final movement of Sherman’s symphony in the south was close to beginning today near Bentonville, N.C. The left wing under Gen. Slocum was preceded by Kilpatrick’s cavalry. Facing him was Gen. Wade Hampton, famous horseman in his own right. The two began with a skirmish at Benton’s Cross Roads. Johnston began maneuvering his 20,000 Confederates to oppose Slocum’s 30,000 Federals. The full Union army opposing him numbered nearly 100,000.

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