This Day in the Civil War

Thursday Oct. 10 1861

Jefferson Davis took seriously his title of “commander in chief” of his nation’s military forces. In fact he often practiced what a later day would call micromanagement, as shown today by a letter he wrote to Maj. Gen. Gustavus Woodson Smith as a follow-up to their conference in Centerville on the first of the month. In the letter Davis discussed his concerns about the Southern railroad network, the organization of troops and the need for efficiency in staff officers. Davis went so far as to discuss the use of Negro laborers for the army, then wound up with further comment on the ultimate objectives: the Union army around Washington.

Friday Oct. 10 1862

The biggest battle of the Civil War to occur in Kentucky had been over for two days now. Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, although heavily outnumbered, had fought well enough that the Union forces had pulled back. Realizing that the numbers still left the odds against him, Bragg began to withdraw towards Tennessee as well. Today fighting still went on around the edges of both forces. Skirmishing took place in Harrodsburg and Danville Cross Roads, Ky. Bragg was attempting to move south and east, and having a difficult time of it.

Saturday Oct. 10 1863

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman had a job to do and was anxious to get on with it. His assignment: march through Tennessee to Chattanooga, and secure it for the Union. His problem: the campaign was designed in such a way that support and supply was required to be provided by gunboats on the Tennessee River, and the water just wasn’t there to do it. It had been a very dry year and the level of the rivers was low all over. Admiral David D. Porter apologized to Gen. Sherman’s boss Gen. U. S. Grant for the situation. Porter, conceding that there was nothing he could do about the river, offered to find shallow-draft boats if necessary, as it was the heavily-armored ironclads that were having the difficulties.

Monday Oct. 10 1864

A year to the day after Sherman had his difficulties on the waters of the Western theater, another group of Union men found themselves in an even more dire situation. A group of gunboats were offloading troops at Eastport, Mississippi, on the Tennessee River. Suddenly there was the sound of cannon fire and the men and ships were under a blistering crossfire from hidden Confederate shore batteries. The transports Aurora and Kenton were hit almost at once and began to drift downstream out of control. Lt. King, captain of the USS Key West and commander of the expedition, ordered another vessel, the Undine, to follow and corral the stray ships. King remained behind to evacuate the men who had already gone ashore, and to cover the escape of the lightly-armed and armored USS Pekin.

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