This Day in the Civil War

Monday Sept. 16 1861

Gen. Sterling Price, CSA, was an aggressive commander when he had the opportunity. He had fought Franz Sigel and Nathaniel Lyon to a draw at Wilson’s Creek in August, then withdrawn to Arkansas to get his large but undisciplined army better organized. Today he was back with a vengeance, in the small Missouri town of Lexington. He had the Union forces under Col. James Mulligan surrounded and under siege. Mulligan’s commander, Gen. Fremont, was supposed to be organizing a relief force to march from St. Louis, but was too busy having his supposed allies arrested.

Tuesday Sept. 16 1862

It was rapidly becoming obvious that a major battle was soon to take place somewhere near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Lee was calling his scattered army together, and McClellan was on his way, albeit slowly, with his. Ahead of both rode Dr. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac. He had the grim task of pre-selecting buildings which would serve as hospitals afterwards. His job, although simplified by the fact that most civilians had long since fled, was complicated by the fact that the ambulances had been left behind in Norfolk, Va. In addition, most of the medical supplies had been used up in the Peninsula Campaign over the summer.

Wednesday Sept. 16 1863

Gen. William Rosecrans’ Federal army had taken Chattanooga four days ago, but Braxton Bragg’s Confederate army was nowhere close to defeated. The Southern forces were strung out on a roughly north-south line on the east side of a ridge called Lookout Mountain. Rosecrans’ army was scattered and vulnerable, especially the men with Gen. George Henry Thomas to the south near LeMoyne Cove. Thomas could have easily been isolated and defeated, but the orders to do so never got delivered to Gen. Thomas C. Hindman. The man carrying the orders, a French soldier-of-fortune known as Maj. Nocquot, was not available to testify at the court-martial of Hindman, as he had disappeared. Some $150,000 in Army funds went missing around the same time, but in all the confusion no connection was ever proved.

Friday Sept. 16 1864

In the days before mechanical refrigeration, keeping ones' troops in food required some interesting logistics. Hardack could be shipped and stored, but if the troops were to have beef one had to store it on the hoof. Confederate cavalry under Wade Hampton took advantage of superior Union stocks by staging a raid at Coggins' Point, VA, where they captured 300 Federals and, more importantly, what they were guarding--a herd of some 2400 cattle. Getting them back to Petersburg would take several days and several skirmishes, but the food was desperately needed by the besieged forces there.

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