This Day in the Civil War

Thursday, Nov. 14 1861

Citizens of cities of the Confederacy were no more thrilled to have a prison open up in the middles of their towns than you or I would likely be today. Residents of Salisbury, North Carolina were nonetheless faced with this now as the local paper had informed them yesterday. The Carolina Watchman wrote that the old Salisbury Factory had been bought for this purpose “to accommodate ...Yankees who are encumbering the tobacco factories of Richmond. Our citizens don't much like the idea...”, but it was done whether they liked it or not. Today one Capt. H. McCoy of the Confederate States Army was named quartermaster of the facility, and left Richmond to get the former factory ready to accept its new residents.

Friday Nov. 14 1862

Irregular though their enlistments might have been, there were black troops in the Union army even at this early date. Gen. H. W. Mercer wrote his headquarters that a captain with the Lamar Rangers had captured “six negroes in Federal uniforms with muskets in their hands”, killed two of them and captured the other four. Mercer's opinion was clear. “I most earnestly request that these negroes be made an example of. They are slaves taken with arms in hand against their masters and wearing the abolition uniform. Some swift and terrible punishment should be inflicted....” His commander, P.T.G. Beauregard, forwarded the letter to his superiors in Richmond for a ruling. Secretary of War Seddon also recommended to Jefferson Davis that the blacks be executed.

Saturday Nov. 14 1863

Still on duty in the Charleston, S. C area, Gen. P. T. G. Beauregard had a different assignment today than last year, but not a more pleasant one. His job was to inspect the gunboats protecting the harbor and river, and report on them His report was not happy. “Our gunboats are defective in six respects”, he wrote. “First, they have no speed...second, they are of too great a draft to navigate our inland waters. Third, they are unseaworthy...even in the harbor they are at times...unsafe in a storm. Fourth, they are incapable of resisting the enemy’s...shots. Fifth, they can not fight at long range. Sixth, they are very costly, warm, uncomfortable and badly ventilated; consequently sickly.” Beauregard’s bluntness gained him no friends. Everybody knew the ships were awful, but they were the only ships the South had.

Monday, Nov. 14, 1864

Gen. Benjamin Butler had certain talents, including administering occupied cities without excessive violence, making money, and commanding political support for Abraham Lincoln. In other fields he was not so successful, including battlefield command and, it seemed, engineering designs. He had concocted a plan to cut a canal to connect two bights of the James River. This would eliminate the necessity of Union ships to pass the seemingly impregnable Confederate fort on Drewry’s Bluff. Canals had been tried before, including in front of Vicksburg, and had never succeeded yet. This one, started in August, was still a work in progress today. The black laborers who provided most of the workforce were not only ill-fed and subject to disease, they were under constant assault from both Confederate gunboats in the river and snipers on the bluff.

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