This Day in the Civil War

Saturday Aug. 17 1861

Running a war is a complicated business. The United States had already been divided up into departments. These were reshuffled today with the Departments of Northeastern Virginia, Washington (DC) and the Shenandoah being merged into the Department of the Potomac. This also resulted in the formation of the Army of the Potomac, which would get all the press, and commit most of the bloodshed, in the Eastern Theater of the war. Maj. Gen. Henry “Old Brains” Halleck was appointed to command.

Sunday Aug. 17 1862

Many of the most famous people in the War of the Rebellion had to work their way up the the high positions they occupied. One such case occurred today as the Confederacy gave official recognition to the cavalry-commanding skills of Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart. Jeb was appointed to lead all the cavalry forces of the Army of Northern Virginia. The Southern cavalry was a vastly superior organization at this stage in the war, and would continue to be until better commanders worked their way up in the Federal army.

Monday Aug. 17, 1863

Several new holes had appeared last week in the walls of the fort where the Civil War began. These were only love pats as the guns were being sighted in and set for proper elevation. Today the REAL bombardment began in earnest. The oversized rifled Parrott cannon on Morris Island were joined by other weaponry on Mossie Island as well as gunboats. The shooting was not completely one-sided though. Gunfire from Ft. Wagner killed Captain G. W. Rodgers, chief of staff to Union Admiral John Dahlgren.

Wednesday Aug. 17, 1864

The siege of Petersburg dragged wearily on. The weather was oppressively hot, as is hardly uncommon in August in Virginia, and the sheer inactivity was leading to frustration in many quarters. Every attempt at frontal assault had failed at an unspeakable cost in blood, and Grant’s intention was to maintain the siege. He wrote to Lincoln for confirmation that he approved this plan, and today got his answer. Lincoln wrote back that Grant should “hold on with a bull-dog gripe [sic], and chew & choke, as much as possible." The President was better at strategy than spelling, which was not all that standardized in those times anyway.

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