This Day in the Civil War

Monday Oct. 21 1861

It is hard to tell who was more to blame for the Union fiasco, the overall commander Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone, or the man on the scene, Col. Edward D. Baker, former senator from Oregon and personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. Using boats which were too few and too small, Baker ferried some 1700 troops across the Potomac River to the base of this bluff, just downstream from Edwards Ferry. They clambered to the top of the cliff and set to fighting Confederates under Brig. Gen. Nathan G. “Shanks” Evans. As more Confederates came up the Federals started to fall back, only to find the bluffs at their back. They scrambled down as best they could, swamping the boats, trying to swim, or scrambling along the banks to escape. Baker preserved his reputation by being shot dead and becoming a martyr. Stone was accused of treason and worse and thrown into prison. The hero of the day, Shanks, never received promotion or recognition, in part because he had a reputation as a drunkard.

Tuesday Oct. 21 1862

Two days ago a mail boat, the Gladiator, had been steaming peacefully along the Mississippi River, when suddenly gunfire broke out from the Arkansas shore. Guerilla activity of this sort was hardly uncommon, whether by actual secessionists or merely armed bandits, and Admiral David D. Porter was thoroughly sick of it. Today he sent the gunboat USS Louisville, along with the transport steamer Meteor loaded with troops, to the closest towns to where the attack had taken place. Under command of Lt. Commander Meade, the villages of Bledsoe’s Landing and Hamblin’s Landing were put to the torch. The people were told that “every outrage by the guerillas upon packets would be similarly dealt with.”

Wednesday Oct. 21 1863

Ulysses S. Grant could not have cut a very imposing image today. Besides his usual rumpled attire he was at the moment hobbling around on a pair of crutches. A few weeks earlier, in New Orleans, Grant’s horse had slipped, fallen and rolled on him, breaking no bones but doing considerable other damage. In the mud and mire of Stevenson, Ala., it made getting around exceedingly difficult, but as Grant and Rosecrans paths crossed there, the conditions hardly mattered. Grant had ordered the other general relieved of command at Chattanooga after he had made no progress at lifting the Confederate siege around the town. Rosecrans was on his way to Nashville and north for reassignment, and Grant was on his way to see Chattanooga for himself, and a conference, however uncomfortable, was necessary.

Friday Oct. 21 1864

Sterling Price’s position was clearly desperate. Surrounded on three sides by closely pursuing Federal forces, and with a river on the fourth, the logical thing to do would most likely have been to surrender his force and abandon every hope of taking Missouri out of the Union. This was not, however, Price’s style, so instead he today fought a very forceful fight at small waterway known as Little Blue. The inevitable was staved off for another day, and in fact the Federals were not as secure as they wanted Price to believe, ordering the evacuation of Independence, Mo.

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