This Day in the Civil War

Sunday June 9 1861

Soldiering is not an occupation that comes naturally to most people, and the almost brand-new Federal forces moving out of Newport News and Fort Monroe tonight were no exception. They were supposed to be marching in a calm and collected manner towards Big Bethel (also known as Bethel Church), in expectation of meeting the enemy in a day or so. Unfortunately the combination of adrenaline, weariness, and lack of discipline took over, and the men were convinced that every sound in the woods was an incipient enemy attack. Shots began to ring out and several injuries were incurred as men fired on other columns of the same force--their own men.

Monday June 9 1862

Yesterday was the battle of Cross Keys, and the Stonewall Jackson magic had worked again. It looked like his Valley Campaign was doomed as a two-pronged attack was launched against him, one arm led by Fremont and the other by James Shields. Once again Jackson’s tactical brilliance was in evidence as he had neatly fended off both forces. Today, even closer to the little western Virginia town of Port Republic, he finished off the encroaching Federals by launching Ewell’s command into the Union flank. Alarmed that they might be cut off, E.B. Tyler ordered a withdrawal. The Confederates followed to make sure they kept moving, then let them be.

Tuesday June 9 1863

For two years of war and more it had been a truism: the Confederate cavalry was so much better than the Union mounted forces that any conflict would result in a Rebel victory. Behind the scenes improvements had been underway and changes were coming. Today the Federal cavalry, under cover of darkness, crossed the fords of the Rappahannock River and launched the biggest cavalry battle ever fought, before or since, in North America. The Southerners may have been weary from several Grand Reviews that had been held in recent days. The actual mission U.S. Gen. Pleasanton was given was to find out what Lee’s army was up to and whether a Northern invasion was on. He never did find that out, but the U.S. Cavalry gave the first respectable account of themselves, fighting the Confederates to a virtual draw until being withdrawn at dusk.

Thursday June 9 1864

Crowds of people who had been in attendance at the National Union Party Convention in Baltimore yesterday took trains today to Washington to congratulate the party’s nominee--the incumbent President Abraham Lincoln. They did not, however rush to gladhand with the incumbent Vice-President Hannibal Hamlin, as he had been quietly sacked and replaced by Andrew Johnson of Tennessee. Johnson's main attraction was that he was that he had stuck with the Union despite the secession of the state that elected him. Possibly Lincoln, a native of Kentucky, felt that another border-state man, one who like himself had family on both sides of the war, would be more likely to promote reconciliation rather than revenge once the conflict was finally ended.

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