This Day in the Civil War

Wednesday July 3 1861

Northern Virginia was to be the most trampled and damaged part of either North or South during the course of the war, and it was starting already. The Union men under Gen. Robert Patterson were marching through this area today, making it as far as Martinsburg. They were in pursuit of the Confederate forces under the command of Joseph E. Johnston, who were currently in Winchester, Va. That town would have the distinction of changing hands more times than any other.

Thursday July 3 1862

The Army of the Potomac was safe under the guns of the Navy vessels on the James River, and already criticism of the Seven Days campaign was flowing freely in the media of both capitals. In Washington, McClellan was whining that he had not been given enough men, even though he outnumbered Lee by at least 30,000. In Richmond the complaint was that Lee should have defeated McClellan rather than just running him off. Lee, at least, maintained a dignified silence on the matter.

Friday July 3 1863

The Army of Northern Virginia had attacked the Federal right on Cemetery and Culps’ Hills yesterday and failed to dislodge them. They had attacked the left at Little Round Top, the Wheatfield and Devil’s Den, and failed to roll up the line. Today it was decided to attack the center. Preceded by an immense artillery barrage (which mostly overshot the line it was intended to hit on Cemetery Ridge) the divisions of Pickett, Pettigrew and Trimble set forth on their march into history. Although a few men made it across the stone wall, they were soon killed or captured. The Union center held.

Sunday July 3 1864

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman had tried a frontal assault on Kennesaw Mountain and suffered one of his rare defeats. Today he reverted to his more accustomed style of tactic, which was to maneuver to outflank his opponent. Said opponent today was Joseph Eggleston Johnston, who had passed through Marietta, Ga. to establish a new line anchored on Nickajack Creek. Johnston’s cavalry kept up harassment behind the lines at Kingston, Ruff’s Mills and Sweetwater Bridge.

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