This Day in the Civil War

Saturday July 13 1861

Gen. Robert Selden Garnett has never been as famous as his cousin (and West Point classmate, class of ‘41) Richard Brooke Garnett. He had been an instructor at West Point, and at the time of the outbreak of the War he could easily have remained in Europe. Instead he returned, resigned his commission in the U.S. Army, and signed up with the South. Field command, unfortunately, did not seem to be his forte. Pushed back relentlessly from Rich Mountain two days ago, he led his men into the valley of the Cheat River. Today, at Corrick’s Ford on that river, he was defeated again. Riding out to tell his skirmishers to withdraw, he was killed. Garnett thus became the first general on either side to die in the Civil War.

Sunday July 13 1862

John Hunt Morgan was his name, and operating behind Union lines was his game. While the “front lines” were never as clearly defined in the Western Theater of the War as they were in the East, Morgan almost always was to be found behind whatever lines there were in Kentucky. Yesterday he had “captured” Lebanon, Ky., a town of little military significance. Today however the rationale became clear: cities all along the Ohio River were in a state of near-panic lest they be the next targets on Morgan’s list. Evansville, Louisville, even Cleveland were in an uproar. The civil authorities sent requests to the commanders of their military districts, asking for protection.

Monday July 13 1863

On the military front things were grim for the Union today: the Army of Northern Virginia made good its escape over the Potomac River from the desultory pursuit by Gen. George Meade. On the civilian front they were downright disastrous: the New York Draft Riots broke out. There had been grumbling about the draft since the law was passed. The rules allowing the wealthy to buy “substitutes” and exemptions led to slogans like “a rich man’s war is a poor man’s fight”. Lots were drawn Saturday and published in the newspapers on Sunday. This day, a mob of mostly immigrant workingmen formed. Talk turned to speeches, and these progressed to an attack on the draft office. This spread to looting of businesses and then wholesale chaos. Police and what few army men were on hand were overwhelmed and soon gave up trying to control the mobs. Additional troops were ordered to rush to New York to restore order. They came from Gettysburg.

Wednesday July 13 1864

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalrymen rode into Tupelo, Mississippi today, with U.S. Gen. Andrew Jackson Smith not far behind at all. The future home of Elvis Presley was not a major Civil War battlefield however, as the action shifted to Camargo Cross Roads nearby. Smith had some 14,000 troops behind the cavalry, and he placed them in a strong position on a low ridge near the crossroads. Forrest, however, had speed, ingenuity, and an absolute genius for improvisation, so any tendency to overconfidence on the part of Union commanders had long since evaporated.

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