This Day in the Civil War

Sunday Sept. 8 1861

President Jefferson Davis, CSA, sent a letter to his general in the field at Manassas battlefield today. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was told that “the cause of the Confederacy is staked upon your army. ..I have felt, and feel, that time brings many advantages to the enemy.” Telling Johnston to hurry sounded promising, but then came the bad news-- “...I wish we could strike him in his present condition, but...” there’s that awful word, ‘but’ “...but it has seemed to me involved in too much probability of failure to render the movement proper with our present means. Had I the requisite arms, the argument would soon be changed.” In other words, Davis could send sympathy, but no guns.

Monday Sept. 8 1862

Robert E. Lee released a pronouncement to the people of Maryland today. “The people of the Confederate States have long watched with the deepest sympathy the wrongs and outrages that have been inflicted on the citizens,” he said. “We know no enemies among you, and will protect all, of every opinion.” The South had long believed that, if the Union army weren’t there, that Maryland would have long since seceded. “It is for you to decide your destiny freely and without constraint.” The immediate decision of the people of Maryland, pro-South as well as pro-North, was that they had no desire to “sell” their just-harvested crops for Confederate money. The anticipated enthusiasm for the “army of liberation” was not materializing.

Tuesday Sept. 8 1863

Gen. Nathaniel Banks had important work to do: retake the Texas cities of Beaumont and Houston. To accomplish this, he assembled four ships, gunboats and troop transports, and set off. To get to his destination required him to get by Sabine Pass, on the Texas-Louisiana border. There was only a feeble force of forty Confederates, with some earthworks and guns, to stop him. This force, commanded by Lt. Dick Dowling, along with a couple of “cottonclad” gunboats under Gen. Jhn Bankhead Magruder, did exactly that. They sank the two lead gunboats and forced their crews to surrender, and drove off the rest of the invasion force with heavy losses. Banks was humiliated and fit to be tied. His superiors were not exactly thrilled with his performance either.

Thursday Sept. 8 1864

It had been more than a week ago that George McClellan had been nominated as the Democratic candidate for President in this year’s election, but he did not get around to formally accepting the party nod until today. At this point he made an announcement that did not sit well with many: he disavowed the “peace plank” in the party platform. This provision insisted that there should be an “immediate cessation of hostilities” and that the Union should be reunited, if possible, by negotiation. McClellan renounced this, saying “The Union is the one condition of peace” and that that was all that could bring the end of the war. This made McClellan look as though he was trying to have things both ways, which, as usual, endeared him to neither faction.

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