This Day in the Civil War

Monday May 13 1861

Acting completely without orders or authorization of any sort, Gen. Benjamin Butler, USA, occupied the city of Baltimore today. He moved troops from outlying Relay Station, Md., into town and seized Federal Hill. His first justification was the claim that he had heard that there was a riot going on. As there was in fact no civil disturbance, he searched around until he found weapons stores, munitions and other supplies he claimed were intended for distribution to the “rebels.”

Tuesday May 13 1862

The captain of the steamship Planter was a smart and crafty fellow. To keep his expenses down, he crewed the vessel entirely with Negroes. Today he docked in Charleston, S.C., and went ashore to do some business. He stayed overnight. At about 4 a.m. his erstwhile crew, led by Robert Smalls, hoisted anchor and chugged out into the bay. Reaching the Union blockade ships they raised a white flag and surrendered the ship and cargo--including themselves-- to Acting Lt. Nickels of the USS Onward. They were happily received.

Wednesday May 13 1863

Gov. Zebulon B. Vance of North Carolina added to the pressures preying on the mind of President Jefferson Davis today. Vance was concerned about the rate of desertion among Confederate troops. He studied the subject and wrote to Davis that the causes he had found for desertion included homesickness, fatigue, inability to enter their preferred regiment, refusal of officers to grant furloughs, and “hard fare”, presumably referring to the food.

Friday May 13 1864

The naval component of the Red River expedition had been stranded by low water above the rapids near Alexandria. In a brilliant and desperate feat of engineering a dam had been constructed to raise the water level. Today the dam was blown up and the last three ships rode the wave downstream to freedom. The last of Banks’ troops boarded the ships and steamed home as quickly as possible.

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