This Day in the Civil War

Sunday Oct. 6 1861

Its connection with the War is slight. Its significance was really rather small in the great scheme of the advancement of communications technology. But there was an institution whose accomplishments and personnel have lived on to this day in myth, legend, movies and memories. The Pony Express it was called, and was hailed as a great innovation in a day when the former method of getting mail to California consisted of sailing ships around Cape Horn. In fact a similar relay system had existed in the days of ancient China; as of today, however, it existed no more in North America. The Pony Express went out of business on this date.

Monday Oct. 6 1862

The tensions between the upper management of the United States and the Army of the Potomac continued to run high. McClellan had attended a meeting of the President’s cabinet, at which he had been castigated for inaction. The President had attended a parade and review of the Army a couple of days ago, after which he called the army “McClellan’s Bodyguard” and castigated him for inaction. After returning to Washington and taking a day’s rest, Lincoln sent McClellan a telegram today, although he was diplomatic enough to send it by way of Halleck: “The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south. Your army must move while the roads are good.” McClellan agreed to think about it.

Tuesday Oct. 6 1863

The USS Cayuga, on blockade duty off the Calcasieu River in Louisiana had a busy day today. First prey was the steamer Pushmahata. When Lt. Commander Dana ordered her to heave to, she attempted to flee instead, and Dana chased her till she ran up on shore. The crew fled after setting her afire. When a party from Cayuga went aboard they put out the fire and started inspecting the cargo, which consisted of rum, red wine and gunpowder. A keg of the latter turned out to have a burning fuse set in it, which Ordinary Seaman Thomas Morton yanked out and threw overboard, along with the keg. After relieving the Pushmahata of the liquid part of her cargo the rest of the powder was used to blow the ship up. Another catch, a schooner, was also chased ashore but her crew succeeded in destroying her before Dana’s men could capture her.

Thursday Oct. 6 1864

When U.S. Grant needed a man to solidify the Union hold on the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, he had sent back to the Western Theater for a man he could count on: Phil Sheridan. Sheridan, however, was an infantry commander, not a cavalryman, so when he had to become one he surrounded himself with the best the Regular Cavalry had to offer. One such man proved his worth today. Confederate forces under Richard Early had been pretty much on the run since the battles of Winchester and Fisher Hill, but they were by no means defeated. The forces of Thomas L. Rosser attacked two regiments under George Armstrong Custer at Brock’s Gap. Although surprised, Custer’s men managed to fend off the attack. It was a disconcerting reminder that this project would be a long one.

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