This Day in the Civil War

Sunday Nov. 3 1861

Finally, after two days of sometimes less than dignified negotiations, insubordination, trickery and deceit, John Fremont had been persuaded to step down as commander of the US military district of Missouri at his base in Springfield, and return to St. Louis. His replacement, Gen. David Hunter, 59, was one of the comparatively few Union officers who had been a lifelong military man, never leaving the service for a more lucrative job since graduating from West Point in 1822. Experience finally paid off when the Civil War started and he was promoted first to Colonel, of the 3rd US Cavalry, then within weeks to brigadier general. He was badly wounded at Bull Run, and this was his first field command (albeit a desk job) since returning.

Monday Nov. 3 1862

Captain Edward W. Fuller of the gunboat CSS Cotton had a particularly enjoyable day in Berwick Bay, Louisiana today. He seemed to be in a thoroughly dreadful situation, being the only Confederate ship in the bay, and being confronted by no less than four Union vessels, the USS Calhoun, Kinsman, Estella and Diana. The odds were not as uneven as they may have seemed, however: what the US captains did not know was that there were Confederate shore batteries concealed on the banks of the waterway. Between the batteries and the Cotton’s own guns, considerable damage was inflicted on the Federal ships until the Cotton started to run low on ammunition. Captain Fuller ordered his men to cut off their pants legs and tie the ends to make additional powder bags to extend the fight. The Union ships withdrew.

Tuesday Nov. 3 1863

To the thousands of mortar, cannon and artillery shells which had already been flung at the battered hulk of Ft. Sumter were added another 661 which were shot off today. The problem, from the point of view of the Union attackers, was that as long as the bombproof shelters provided cover for the Confederate defenders, any further damage to the shell of the fort itself was more or less unimportant. The essential point was summed up in a report by Admiral John Dahlgren after inspecting the fort through a telescope from his flagship in Charleston Harbor. He could, he wrote “..plainly observe the further effects of the firing; still, this mass of ruin [Sumter] is capable of harboring a number of the enemy, who may retain their hold until expelled by the bayonet..” The air war was not working and ground forces would have to be used.

Thursday Nov. 3 1864

The Confederate Cavalry-Naval Flotilla Force was a unique and short-lived institution created Oct. 27 when Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest succeeded in capturing a Union gunboat and two transport ships on the Tennessee River. In the ensuing days Forrest had put the vessels to good use hauling his men across the river and into position to threaten a Union supply depot at Johnstonville, Tenn. As the cavalrymen-turned-sailors gained greater experience at managing their new steeds, their confidence increased. Today, which was cold, rainy and foggy on that part of the river, the men challenged three Union gunboats guarding the depot to come out and fight. The more experienced Union sailors declined the offer and stayed under the protection of their shore guns.

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