This Day in the Civil War

Tuesday Sept. 3 1861

Life was tough in border states. Passions flared for and against secession, slavery and all the other issues of the day, but nearly as many felt strongly on either side of the various issues. So far the new legislature was holding with the Union. This did not suit Confederate Gen. Gideon Pillow, so, under orders from Gen. Leonidas Polk, he invaded the state and headed for Columbus, Ky., on the Mississippi River. The Confederate Secretary of War, LeRoy Walker of Alabama, was horrified and tried to send orders to Polk to withdraw the invasion forthwith, but he was overruled by Jefferson Davis.

Wednesday Sept. 3 1862

Gen. John Pope looked around today and discovered that he had misplaced his army. Actually it wasn’t the army that was lost, but his command of it. He therefore sat down to write his report, which was dedicated to the proposition that none of the mistakes that had resulted in his being pushed from the Shenandoah Valley to the suburbs of Washington, were in any way his fault. The first recipient of his wrath was Gen. Fitz John Porter, who was said to have “disobeyed orders in the face of the enemy.” The second, naturally, was Gen. George McClellan, who Pope accused of failing to move quickly enough to come to his aid. Although this was in fact true, it overlooked the problem that fighting Pope’s battles was not technically on the books as McClellan’s job.

Thursday Sept. 3 1863

Vicksburg had fallen to siege on July 4. Part of the terms of surrender negotiated by Gen. John C. Pemberton was that his men, all 27,000 of them, would be paroled en masse and given a 30-day furlough, which was the time during which they would not be permitted to take up arms against the enemy. The men were to go to their homes, take care of necessary business and visit their families, then return to Pemberton’s command. The problem was with Part 3...the thirty days were up and an awful lot of his men were forgetting the part about returning to the army. Since they had not gone through the usual process of exchange they could not legally be used for fighting anyway, but these niceties were beginning to go by the wayside.

Friday Sept. 3 1864

Gen. Jubal Early had been sent North on a desperate mission: wreak havoc and terrify the citizenry that Washington was about to be captured. This, the thinking went, would cause Lincoln to recall part--or maybe even all--of Grant’s army besieging Petersburg. In this Early had failed, and Lee was beginning to pressure him to get back to help with the defense. Early sent R.H. Anderson’s corps back today, but as they were heading up the Shenandoah Valley they ran into a corps of Gen. Phil Sheridan’s army. The battle, although a genuine surprise to both sides, was quite fierce for awhile and Anderson retreated back to Early’s main force.

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