This Day in the Civil War

Thursday, March 20 1862

Drewry’s Bluff was the name of a high cliff on the James River as you came upstream from the Atlantic to Richmond. With this in mind, Jefferson Davis had ordered the construction of a fort there. He wrote today: “The position of Drewry’s Bluff, seven or eight miles below Richmond, was chosen to obstruct the river against such vessels as the ’Monitor." It worked, too--the fort was still in use until the Confederate government fled Richmond.

Friday, March 20 1863

Admiral David Farragut was in a Neutral Zone of sorts today. He had gotten past Port Hudson, but lost most of his ships in the process and was now in the middle of a river with Confederate forces on both sides, and he was low on fuel. He got ashore to a telegraph line and sent a message to General Grant upstream. Grant managed to float a coal barge under the guns of Vicksburg, and the day was saved.

Sunday, March 20 1864

Not all assignments of a new captain to a ship of his own were happy ones. Lt. Charles Simmes, CSN, was given command of CSS Baltic. He was also given the inspector's report. He wrote his boss “..he made a very unfavorable report...and recommended that the iron be taken from her and put upon one of the new boats. Between you and I the Baltic is rotten as punk and is about as fit to go into action as a mud scow.”

Monday, March 20 1865

Gen. Johnston did today what few other Confederate commanders could claim--he stopped Sherman’s army. He had stopped Slocum’s left wing yesterday, and the entire army made no progress as the right under Howard was obliged to come around as backup. The fight was on horrid terrain that was quicksand in wet weather. Even in dry times it was lacking covering vegetation, and too sandy to hold any sort of artillery. No pitched battle developed, but skirmishing occurred somewhere almost all day long.

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