This Day in the Civil War

Friday Aug. 30 1861

U.S. Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont had come all the way from California to join in the war effort. Today he found himself in command of Union forces in St. Louis, Mo., and not at all happy with what he saw. Missouri, he said, was afflicted with a “disordered condition, helplessness of civil authority, and total insecurity of life”. He announced his solution: martial law, the confiscation of all property of “those who shall take up arms against the United States”, and his intention to shoot any of the latter who were convicted by military court-martial. As a side note he announced his own Emancipation Proclamation, freeing every slave in Missouri. President Lincoln, who was known to take a rather loose view of the Constitution when necessary, immediately cancelled all of Fremont’s decrees, calling them “dictatorial." He caught political hell for them anyway.

Saturday Aug. 30 1862

Finally, Gen. John Pope probably said to himself today, finally something was going right here by the old Manassas battlefield. He had “Stonewall” Jackson on the run, and he launched an attack to keep him from escaping. What Pope didn’t know was that Jackson wasn’t alone; he was now the left wing of the Confederate army. The right flank under Longstreet lost no time in making its presence felt, and the Union forces began to roll...backwards toward Bald Hill and Henry House Hill, and finally to Centerville. At the end of the day Lee was victorious and the pressure on Richmond was relieved. Pope, although not routed, was humiliated and soon relieved and sent back West. A few of McClellan’s units, sent for reinforcement, showed up after everything was over.

Sunday Aug. 30 1863

The bombardment of the incredibly sturdy old Fort Sumter continued in Charleston Harbor today. The breech batteries (cannon) of the Union attackers on Morris Island fired round after round, and inflicted damage in places. As gun placements were damaged by the fire, the Confederate defenders would dig the guns out and transport them into Charleston proper. Return fire was of course attempted. It did little damage to the Federals but in a tragic accident, the Confederates of Fort Moultrie fired on a small steamship that was thought to be bringing reinforcement to the Yankees. It held reinforcements, all right...but they were fellow Southerners. The ship was sunk.

Tuesday Aug. 30 1864

There was a Democratic convention going on in Chicago today. An unpopular Republican president was conducting an unpopular war, and the “peace faction” was in firm control today. Their nominee for the presidential race: former Maj. Gen. George McClellan, with former Connecticut governor Thomas Seymour. McClellan had battled with Lincoln before, but that was when he was in charge of the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln kept encouraging him to attack for virtually his entire tenure; McClellan seldom complied. The mocking rumor now started to go around that his pacifism was motivated by a desire to keep as many Union soldiers alive as possible, so that they could now cast absentee votes on his behalf.

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