This Day in the Civil War

Tuesday, April 23 1861

Although the political excitement was going on in the East, the western part of the country was not twiddling its collective thumbs over the issue of secession. Several Federal officers were arrested today in Texas, not as criminals but as prisoners of war. Jefferson Davis was frantically encouraging Gov. Claiborne Jackson of Missouri to first seize the Federal arsenal in St. Louis, then join the Confederacy.

Wednesday, April 23 1862

Testing on the prototype machine guns, known as “coffee mill” guns because of the lever that was cranked to operate it, had been ongoing for some time. Col. John Geary, of the 28th PA Infantry, was in charge of the project, and today he sent the two he had been experimenting with back to the Washington Arsenal. Despite the fact that these weapons had been purchased by President Lincoln’s direct order, Geary’s report stated that they were “inefficient, and unsafe to the operators.”

Thursday, April 23 1863
Interest in spiritualism was intense in mid-century America, and was considered a combination of scientific investigation and parlor entertainment. This night a sťance was held at the White House, with participants including the President and First Lady as well as many cabinet members. There were reports that after Mr and Mrs. Lincoln left, the “spirits” tweaked the nose of Secretary of War Stanton, and tugged on Navy Secretary Welles’ beard.

Saturday April 23 1864

William Tecumseh Sherman was in charge of a considerable operation in central Tennessee, and he needed transportation. He had cancelled civilian railroad operations and taken over the trains for the military, but they only ran 60 trains a day. He begged, he pleaded, he ordered twice the number; the trainmen said their operation only allowed 60, otherwise the rails would wear out. Sherman didn't care about this, and put soldiers in to run the trains, and was soon up to 193 cars per day from Nashville to Chattanooga.

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