This Day in the Civil War

Saturday, April 20 1861

Washington, DC., was now accessible only by water as Confederate forces held the rail line from Harper’s Ferry and pro-secessionists burned railroad bridges to Baltimore. They needed the navy more than ever--but today the Gosport Navy Yard at Norfolk, Va. was abandoned to the forces of the South. Instructions were to destroy what could not be saved, which resulted in several ships being burnt at their moorings. One of them was the USS Merrimac. She was partly burned, then sunk. She was to rise again, under different management and with a new name.

Sunday, April 20 1862

Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip on the Mississippi River were proving bigger impediments than expected to Federal progress toward New Orleans. Today the problem was not the forts themselves, but obstructions to navigation which the forts protected. Flag Officer Farragut sent parties ashore from USS Itasca to sneak in and blow the obstructions up. The bomb failed, but the landing parties did enough damage that a gap was created.

Monday, April 20 1863

Louisiana was the site of several Federal activities today. In one, a Union Navy squadron moved in on and captured Butte-a-la-Rose, which was the site of a Confederate installation, Fort Burton. One crewman wrote in his diary that “The fight was short, sharp and decisive. It was done after the style of Daddy Farragut.” Land forces, not to be left out, occupied the Louisiana towns of Washington and Opelousas.

Wednesday, April 20 1864

After days of bitter fighting, the Confederacy had one of its biggest victories in a long time at Plymouth, North Carolina. The Union garrison had been supported by two gunboats; their defeat yesterday by the CSS Albermarle had made the loss of the garrison inevitable. Brig. Gen. R.F. Hoke’s men captured 2800 Yankee prisoners along with a considerable quantity of supplies.

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