This Day in the Civil War

Monday June 17 1861

Gen. Nathaniel Lyon had been chasing Gov. Claiborne Jackson across his state of Missouri for some time now. He had chased him out of the capital of Jefferson City without a shot being fired; today he did the same, albeit with some minor use of weaponry, in Boonville. Boonville, Mo., is not one of those great place-names like Sharpsburg or Manassas, but its effect was larger than its population. The town gave the Union control of the Missouri River, and thereby most of the north and east of the state.

Tuesday June 17 1862

Gen John Pope was ordered to head East today to command a new entity called the Army of Virginia. This was a consolidation of the armies of Fremont and Banks. Gen. Fremont was so vexed at having to serve under Pope that he resigned. His replacement was Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel, who was not, alas, a great commander either. He was, however, utterly beloved by the German immigrants who made up such a large part of the Union armies. Elsewhere, Braxton Bragg was named to command the Confederate forces previously under Beauregard, who was ill.

Wednesday June 17 1863

The CSS Atlanta had been specially rigged with a bomb on a ram and maneuvered for days into position to attack Federal blockade ships at Wassaw Sound, Ga. With two wooden gunboats for support, she charged at the ironclad USS Weehawken. Alas, all the planning went for naught when she ran aground, was refloated, but with a damaged rudder that prevented steering. Weehawken’s Captain John Rodgers promptly hit Atlanta with five shots and captured her. The Confederate Navy was not oversupplied with ships to begin with.

Friday June 17 1864

After three days of heavy fighting, some of the surprise factor was wearing off the Union army's attempt to capture Petersburg. Robert E. Lee was at last convinced that Grant was attacking there instead of Richmond, and sent the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia to its defense. The command of the Second Corps went to David Birney after Hancock was incapacitated by a reopening of the wound he had received a year earlier at Gettysburg. The attacks failed anyway.

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