This Day in the Civil War

Saturday Aug. 31 1861

The War of American Independence--the Revolution--was fought with only one man holding the rank of full, or four-star, General: George Washington. The War for Southern Independence--the Civil War--was barely underway and this number had quintupled. Richmond announced today that no less than five men were being named as full generals, the promotions being effective on different dates so that these five would know who was superior to each other. In order they were: Samuel Cooper, Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, and Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard. The only full General the North would name wouldn’t get the job for almost three years: U.S. Grant.

Sunday Aug. 31 1862

The Tennessee River was supposed to be fairly safe territory for Union shipping and soldiers, but this proved not the case today. The Federal transport ship W. B. Terry was going about her business, hauling a few soldiers, some civilian passengers, and a load of coal. She might have been just a teensy bit overloaded in fact because she ran aground at Duck River Sucks. A force of Confederates was conveniently nearby and promptly attacked. The soldiers aboard attempted to mount a defense but were overwhelmed in short order. In Virginia the cleanup began of the devastation after Second Bull Run.

Monday Aug. 31 1863

Very few battles come about as complete surprises, and the one which effectively began today was no exception. The Federal Army of the Cumberland, Gen. William Starke Rosecrans commanding, was currently in the area of Shellmouth, in eastern Alabama. Facing him was the Army of Tennessee, Gen. Braxton Bragg commanding. (This force should not be confused with the Union army of THE Tennessee, named for the river in Union custom rather than the state as the South did). Bragg’s force in east Tennessee was roughly centered around a small (pop. 2546, including 451 Negroes) river town formerly known as Ross’s Landing. A town meeting to pick a jazzier name had decided on a variation of the old Creek Indian name of the place, Chatto-to-noo-gee, or Chattanooga. Rosecrans sent the first soldiers on an expedition in their direction today.

Wednesday Aug. 31 1864

The Democratic National Convention wrapped up in Chicago today with more decorum than would be the case in later years. The nominee for President of the United States in the Year of Our Lord 1864 would be...George McClellan, formerly Major General in the Federal Army, formerly rather lethargic leader of the Army of the Potomac. His nomination was made by acclamation at the proposal of one Charles Vallandigham, former member of the US House of Representatives from Ohio and dedicated opponent of the war. These views had got him exiled from the United States to the Confederacy, which didn’t want him either. He spent most of the war years in Canada. As this convention was made up of Peace Democrats, nobody there cared.

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