This Day in the Civil War

Sunday Aug. 25 1861

In these relatively early days of the War, some days just went by without major battles, and some were even lacking in minor skirmishes. Sundays in particular were still largely respected as days of rest rather than raiding. This is not to say that peace prevailed entirely in the land however. There were some scuffles near Piggot’s Mill in western Virginia. The remaining war-related hostilities were in New Mexico Territory, and tended to involve Confederate forces battling with Indians rather than Yankees. This was not pleasing to the Confederate high command, which hoped to recruit native forces as allies, who had at least as much reason to hate Washington as the Southerners did.

Monday Aug. 25 1862

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton today issued some interesting orders to the commander of the Federal Department of the South. Gen. David Hunter, at his headquarters in Hilton Head, South Carolina, was authorized to “receive into United States service” a force numbering up to 5,000 men. These people were to function as guards around plantations, settlements and other areas under Union control. Oh yes, and the troops in question were to be blacks. Hunter, an ardent abolitionist, was undoubtedly thrilled.

Tuesday Aug. 25 1863

US Brig. Gen. Thomas Ewing issued one of the most amazing orders of the War today, but since he did it in Kansas City it received little attention. In response to the slaughter in Lawrence, Kansas a few days earlier, he literally ordered the entire area under his command evacuated by all persons. Those considering themselves Union loyalists could reside at military posts, but everyone else in Jackon, Cass, Bates and part of Vernon County, Missouri were to just go....away. His intent was to create what a later day would call a “free-fire zone”, where anyone found would be assumed to be a Confederate and shot on sight. Houses, barns and other outbuildings were burned to eliminated shelter. Some 20,000 people were affected by the order and lost their homes.

Thursday Aug. 25 1864

The rumors, for once, were correct. Confederate forces under A.P. Hill had been reinforced and struck hard at the Federals engaged in railroad destruction at Reams’ Station south of Petersburg. Federal casualties were 2372, of which around 2,000 were listed as “missing or captured”. Hancock’s 2nd Corps suffered a clear defeat but in fact Hill’s victory was empty. Destruction of the Weldon Railroad continued apace, and the program to extend the Union lines further and further to the right were not disrupted in the slightest.

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