This Day in the Civil War

Sunday Sept. 15 1861

Gen. Charles Fremont, commander of Union forces in St. Louis, Mo. was under pressure on two fronts. He was supposed to be organizing a march of 38,000 troops to Lexington, Mo., where a Federal force was holding out against a siege of Sterling Price. Fremont was also under pressure from President Lincoln, who was furious about Fremont’s orders freeing all the slaves in Missouri, and Lincoln’s friend, the politician-colonel Frank Blair Jr. who was furious about a recent audit of Fremont’s books. Fremont’s response: he put Blair under arrest, and cancelled the march to Lexington.

Monday Sept. 15 1862

Stonewall Jackson pounced on Harpers Ferry today. As the Federal garrison there was small, and the intended reinforcements under Franklin had failed to arrive, the battle didn’t take long, although it was long enough for the defending commander, Dixon Miles, to be mortally wounded. Meanwhile Gen. Lee was becoming at least mildly concerned that his forces were spread out so widely. The Potomac River and safety were not far away, but instead Lee sent orders to the outlying elements to begin to concentrate at the tiny Maryland village of Sharpsburg, on Antietam Creek.

Tuesday Sept. 15 1863

The “writ of habeas corpus” is a fairly simple concept, despite its Latin name. It refers to the right of an arrested person to know what charges are being brought, and of the obligation of the state to produce evidence that the person charged was the one who committed the offense. It was one of the shining lights of the United States Constitution, and it went right out the window today. Due to the existence of a “state of rebellion”, wrote Abraham Lincoln, the right would be suspended in cases of people arrested by military authorities whenever they deemed fit.

Thursday Sept. 15 1864

Admiral David Farragut had had a busy war. Right at the moment he was probably wishing for greater haste from the US postal authorities, because he had sent a letter Aug. 27 to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles asking for a little time off. Secretary Welles just received the letter today and it rather ruined his plans. Despite the fact that, as Farragut pointed out, he had been on duty for more than five years, with only one short furlough during that time, Welles had planned to assign him to command of the assault on Wilmington, North Carolina. In view of Farragut’s request Welles changed his plans. He assigned Admiral D. D. Porter to the job--Farragut’s adoptive brother.

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