This Day in the Civil War

Saturday July 20 1861

Generals on both sides maneuvered their forces today and made their plans for a battle to be fought on the fields of north Virginia almost in sight of Washington. From Centerville, from Winchester, from the Shenandoah Valley came the Confederates. Joseph Johnston was their commander, and he planned an attack on the Federal left. Federal commander McDowell, whose men had been retreating from Centerville in terrible heat with little water or rations, likewise planned to attack his enemy’s left. Near the little town of Manassas ran the creek called Bull Run.

Sunday July 20 1862

No major battles took place anywhere today, which meant that most armies spent the day marching away from the last one and towards the next. Many men would no doubt have preferred fighting to walking much further, especially as hard use had wreaked havoc on the clothing and shoe supplies of both sides. One private of the 15th Illinois Volunteer Infantry was mortified to have to march through Memphis, Tenn., with his handkerchief tucked in his belt to cover the hole in the back of his pants. Minor skirmishes took place in the West, at Greenville and Taberville, Mo., and Gaines Landing, Ark, as well as Hatchie Bottom, Miss.

Monday July 20 1863

In our study of the War Between the States it would be a mistake to concentrate so hard on battles and campaigns that we forget about the civilians. As in all countries in wartime there was the normal work of daily life to get done, crops to raise, books to balance and business in general to tend to. There was also a desire to contribute to the war effort, though, and today the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce took a stand as their contribution. They expelled 33 members from the organization for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Union. How many of these were actual Confederate sympathizers is not recorded.

Wednesday July 20 1864

Gen. John Bell Hood, CSA, had done little but retreat from Gen. George “Old Slow Trot” Thomas, so today Hood decided to attack. It was a miserable failure, costing him nearly 25% of his force of 20,000, while inflicting only 1800 casualties on the Union men. His only really creative act of the day was shifting blame for the mess to Gen. William Hardee, claiming he was late and his men did not fight hard enough.

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