This Day in the Civil War

Monday June 24 1861

In a hayloft across the street from the Willard Hotel a wonder weapon, called by its salesman “an Army in six feet square” was demonstrated for President Lincoln today. Lincoln himself turned the crank of this contraption, which fired regular .58 bullets in special steel jackets, then neatly dropped the jackets into a bin for reloading. Lincoln, a gadget lover, was delighted and said it reminded him of a coffee mill. The name stuck. Several of the guns were ordered by various commanders, but technical difficulties and bureaucratic horror of innovation prevented general adoption of them.

Tuesday June 24 1862

The generals had met, the plans had been laid, the date had been set for tomorrow for the all-out battle to turn McClellan’s army away from Richmond. The Confederate armies were not yet quite prepared and were therefore laying in the stores of arms, ammunition and rations that would be required. Minor skirmishing occurred near Mechanicsburg as they confirmed the location of the Union lines. The fighting that would become known as the Seven Days Battle was about to begin.

Wednesday June 24 1863

Last year’s invasion of Maryland by the Army of Northern Virginia had culminated in a vast battle in Sharpsburg, MD, on the banks of Antietam Creek. The forces of Gen. Lee were on the move again now, and the logic of geography dictated that they pass that way again, this time on their way to Pennsylvania. “Take Harrisburg if it comes within your grasp” were the orders to the lead forces. James Longstreet and A.P. Hill had passed not far from Harpers Ferry, and today they neared Antietam Creek again. A sharp but short skirmish broke out, and the number of ghosts increased.

Friday June 24 1864

A few days ago the cavalrymen of Gen. Phil Sheridan had captured an immense train of wagons, one of the last objectives of the rebel raid on the North that had stood a chance of success. The Southerners were not letting go of the desperately needed supplies without a fight, and today one was fought, near a place called St. Mary’s Church. The attack was fierce, and the need to protect the trains made it difficult for the Federals to fight freely. At the end of the day they had to disengage and try to withdraw, but they still had possession of the wagons and food.

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