This Day in the Civil War

Sunday Aug. 4 1861

One of the difficulties of assembling a large army made up of civilians is that once you have gathered them into a camp of instruction, you have to find some way to keep them occupied. Taking matters into their own hands, it was not uncommon for soldiers, trained or otherwise, to seek relief from boredom in drink. Today a meeting was held in New York on the subject of discouraging intemperance in the Army. Drunken soldiers were prone to discipline problems including fighting--but not the enemy.

Monday Aug. 4 1862

Another problem of assembling and then using an army made up of civilians was the way regiments were raised. Frequently they were assembled by local politicians or other potentates, who then had the men elect them as commanding officers. Their quality varied widely. Abraham Lincoln issued orders today that Regular Army commanders were to begin the process of weeding out the incompetents and deadwood. This was not entirely successful, nor done as quickly as it might have been.

Tuesday Aug. 4 1863

“Battery Wagner”, as it was called in the South, was a mere spit of land with an installation of cannon on it. This establishment was essential to the defense of Charleston Harbor and both sides knew it. The Union called it “Fort Wagner” because it was a little embarrassing to admit that a wall that didn’t even go all the way around the guns could keep the attackers out for so long. Under either name it underwent yet another naval bombardment today as they prepared a huge new gun called the Swamp Angel, which was expected to blow Wagner to little bits.

Thursday Aug. 4 1864

US Admiral David Farragut knew what his next assignment was: the seizure of Mobile Bay, Alabama. He was not looking forward to it, and therefore wanted very much to get it underway. He sent orders to senior officers at Pensacola requesting the Monitor-class ironclad Tecumseh, and adding “I can lose no more days. I must go in day after tomorrow morning at is a bad time, but when you do not take fortune at her offer you must take her as you can find her.” It would not be his most notable quote of the battle.

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