This Day in the Civil War

Saturday Nov. 9 1861

Actually, the city of Beaufort, South Carolina, was captured without a fight by Federal forces operating out of the new outpost on Hilton Head Island. Although Beaufort was of little military importance itself, the fact that the Union now controlled the waterway between Charleston and Savannah gave Confederate commanders nervous twitches. Speaking of nerves, Gen. William T. Sherman was replaced as administrator of the new Federal Department of the Ohio, which included the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky west of the Cumberland River. Sherman was not a great administrator, nor fond of sitting behind a desk, and the strain on his nerves caused some people to even question his sanity. Gen. Don Carlos Buell was sent in to replace him.

Sunday Nov. 9 1862

After five days of paper-shuffling and delays caused by both bureaucracy and the limitations of travel time, it took until today for Gen. Ambrose Burnside to arrive at headquarters and take command of the Army of the Potomac. The handover had to have been somewhat awkward for both the incoming and outgoing commanders: before the War, Burnside had been an employee of the man he now replaced, George McClellan, when they both worked for the Illinois Central Railroad. Further complicating matters was the fact that Burnside did not want an army command and had told Lincoln so when the President offered him the job. He felt it was beyond his capabilities, and many would die in Fredericksburg proving him right.

Monday Nov. 9 1863

Abraham Lincoln was not, if truth be told, a great enthusiast for the theater. If he did have to attend a performance to make his wife happy, he preferred a comedy. Tonight’s offering, alas, was more of a melodrama, which the already pressured and depressed Lincoln certainly did not need more of, but the tickets were already bought. The play was one called “Marble Heart”, and it was enlivened by one of the premier actors of the American stage--a certain John Wilkes Booth. The two men were not at this point acquainted.

Wednesday Nov. 9 1864

William T. Sherman issued marching orders to his forces today. He started with organizational topics, establishing a left wing (14th and 20th Corps, commander Gen. Henry Slocum) and a right wing (17th and 15th Corps, under Gen. O. O. Howard). These wing structures would be the main maneuvering and attack units of the campaign. Sherman then turned to the supply situation. The lines of wagons carrying food, drink, ammunition, and all the other essentials for a mobile force stretched for miles and often slowed the march greatly. Sherman ordered that there would be only one wagon allowed per regiment, and that only to carry ammunition. The policy of live-off-the-land was now established.

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