This Day in the Civil War

Monday June 3 1861

A column of Federal troops came down out of the mountains of western Virginia today, under the command of Col. R.F. Kelley. After marching all night in pouring rain, they struck at daylight and routed the Confederates of G. A. Porterfield. The Southerners fled, the Unionists pursued, and the affair became known as the “Philippi Races” in the gleeful Northern press. Somehow George McClellan wound up credited with the win, which gave a boost to his political fortunes.

Tuesday June 3 1862

Faced with Gen. John Pope’s Federal forces outside of Corinth, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard had evacuated his army, fighting a rearguard action near Rienzi, Miss. The military importance of the fall of Corinth was that it gave the Union control of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, and cut off support to any Confederate installations as far as Memphis. The garrison at Ft. Pillow, north of Memphis, began to pull their guns and supplies out, in preparation for abandoning the installation.

Wednesday June 3 1863

The Army of Northern Virginia began pulling out from the vicinity of Fredericksburg today, with the corps of Gen. James Longstreet leading the way into the Shenandoah Valley behind a long ridge known (confusingly) as South Mountain. The first Confederate invasion of the North had gone no further than Sharpsburg, Md., resulting in the Battle of Antietam. Lee’s motives for this summer’s drive North have been endlessly debated, but high on the list were taking the war out of beleaguered Virginia and perhaps alarming the Union into suing for peace.

Friday June 3 1864

If 5 p.m. yesterday was considered too late to start a battle, 4:30 a.m. was not considered too early. At that hour some 50,000 Union troops opened a full-scale charge on the dug-in Confederates at Cold Harbor, Va., barely eight miles from Richmond. Apparently the bloody lessons of Marye’s Heights and Pickett’s Charge had not yet been learned by all, than an attacking force has little chance against an entrenched defense even if heavily outnumbering them. The federals were unable to break through, leaving Lee the “winner” of the fight.

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