This Day in the Civil War

Saturday Oct. 12 1861

The blockade runner Theodora slipped successfully out of Charleston harbor, South Carolina today on a mission that would prove momentous. Under cover of storm and darkness she carried John Slidell of Louisiana and James Mason of Virginia, Commissioners of the Confederacy to France and Britain respectively. Their mission was to be to persuade the governments to which they were being sent to recognize the existence of the Confederate States of America as a sovereign and independent nation. United States Navy Secretary Gideon Welles knew all about their mission and ordered US vessels to intercept them if possible--but Welles thought they were on a ship named CSS Nashville and confusion ensued.

Sunday Oct. 12 1862

James Ewell Brown Stuart had led his cavalrymen on yet another “ride around McClellan”, an event which was in danger of becoming a regular occurrence. In this case he had crossed the Potomac and ridden straight for Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, pausing only long enough to rip down every telegraph wire he passed. Arriving in that city he had proceeded to confiscate every horse, burn public buildings, wreck everything that couldn’t be carried, and generally cause a nuisance. Realizing yesterday that he had perhaps overstayed his welcome, they departed for Maryland. Today they crossed back over the Potomac to the safety of Virginia.

Monday Oct. 12 1863

Everyone seemed to be aware by now that the Army of Northern Virginia was on the move, with one apparent exception. Robert E. Lee was not supposed to be able to launch a major offensive this soon, with all the action supposed to be going on in the West. Nevertheless he seemed to be doing exactly that, passing to the west and now curving north around the Army of the Potomac. Continuing on their present course would bring them back to the blood-soaked fields of Manassas for yet a third time, and continuing past that would put them in Washington D. C. That city’s first citizen sent yet another worried telegram to Gen. George Meade today: “What news this morning?” Lincoln wrote.

Wednesday Oct. 12 1864

The case which became known as the Dred Scott Decision was one of the landmarks of American legal history. Was a slave taken by his master to live in a “free” state thereby made free, even if later taken back to a state where slavery was legal? The case, which was pursued and financed by abolitionist groups for years, finally made it to the U.S Supreme Court, and the ruling was written by Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney. It declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and Scott again a slave, and greatly deepened the rift between North and South that would eventually lead to so many deaths. One such, albeit not by hostile action, occurred to Taney himself. He died, of old age, in Washington. Taney was 89.

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