This Day in the Civil War

Wednesday Sept. 11 1861

It is little remembered that Robert E. Lee was not a spectacular success in his early days of command. Today he was expecting to launch an attack on Union forces near Cheat Mountain in western Virginia. To cope with the extremely rugged terrain and narrow roads, he had divided his troops into five columns, all of which were to encircle the equally divided forces of J.J. Reynolds. As is not uncommon in this area in the fall, it had been pouring down rain for days, and nearly everyone was behind schedule. This did not bode well for the outcome of the campaign.

Thursday Sept. 11 1862

The Confederacy, after a year and a half of war, was beginning to decide that an entirely defensive campaign was not going to succeed in winning their war of independence. Aggressive efforts were now underway on two fronts, one famous, one less so. Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were in Hagerstown, MD. today. It was assumed in the South that Maryland would have seceded and joined the Confederacy if it were not for the presence of Union troops, and Lee was expecting many men to flock to his colors to enlist. On the western front, other forces in gray under Gen. Kirby Smith were within seven miles of Cincinnati, Ohio. This inspired panic in the citizenry there, many of whom clogged the roads in an attempt to flee town.

Friday Sept. 11 1863

In the early hours of this morning Gen Braxton Bragg issued orders for an attack on Union troops camped in a north Georgia region known as McLemore’s Cove. Bragg had been withdrawing before the brilliant flanking maneuvers of Gen. William S. Rosecrans, but now the trap was ready to be sprung on the overconfident Union troops. Somehow, though, the attack never took place. The orders for the assault had been given to one Major Noquot, a foreign soldier-of-fortune with a limited command of the English language, to transport. Noquot showed up late today after taking 12 hours to cover a distance of about five miles. His explanation, when deciphered, was that he had become lost in the dark and camped for the night, lest he be shot by pickets as an intruder. The Union forces had pulled out of McLemore’s Cove in the meantime, and the element of surprise was lost.

Sunday Sept. 11 1864

The USS Stockdale, Acting Lt. Wiggen commanding, set forth up the Fish River to Mobile Bay today, leading the tinclad USS Randolph and the Army troop transport ship Planter, which was towing a barge. Their destination: a sawmill up on the bay. The expedition arrived without incident, landed troops, and proceeded to confiscate Confederate equipment including 60,000 board feet of sawn lumber, the engine used to saw the logs, and some livestock. The problem came when the now heavily-loaded ships tried to get back down the river. Confederate troops lined the river as it began to grow dark. Shots were fired and trees were even felled into the water in an attempt to snag and stop the vessels. The military ships returned fire with the ship’s guns, the troops fired muskets, and the reinforced Randolph smashed its way through the log blockades. All the boats returned safely.

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