This Day in the Civil War

Wednesday April 17 1861

Like ominous dominoes falling in a row, states lined up to refuse Lincoln’s call for militia, then secede from the Union altogether. Virginia’s governor said that since in his opinion Lincoln “inaugurated the war” they would send no troops, since “the people of this Commonwealth are free men, not slaves.” (He was, of course, only 3/5ths correct.) The governor of Missouri, also a secessionist, called the militia request “illegal, unconstitutional, revolutionary, inhuman, diabolical and cannot be complied with.” Kentucky was not amused either.

Thursday, April 17 1862

Flag Officer Farragut was preparing for the attack on New Orleans. This preparation included amassing Union troops at Ship Island, Miss, and in the area below Ft. Jackson and Ft. St. Phillip. These latter's efforts involved not just preparation but rescue--they were severely flooded, and the troops stationed there had to spend more time bailing and moving guns and ammunition above the water’s reach than they did getting ready for battle.

Friday April 17 1863

A Union cavalry force led by Col. Benjamin Grierson set off today on an extended raid through Louisiana and Mississippi. The 1700-man expedition’s main purpose was to support Grant’s final push on Vicksburg by tying up any Confederate forces that might be sent to the city’s aid. Conversely, Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke led a Confederate cavalry group into attacks on Union posts in Missouri. Both forces continued operating until May 2.

Sunday April 17 1864

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, head of all Union military forces, issued an order today that he felt would shorten the war, although inflicting hideous suffering. He ordered an end to prisoner exchanges, which up till now had sometimes seemed like a revolving door, as men captured in one battle were often back in time for the next. Grant also ordered that there would be no distinction between exchanges of white and colored soldiers, which infuriated the South even though it was rather a moot point.

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