This Day in the Civil War

Friday Nov. 15 1861
CHRISTIAN COMMISSION CREATED CAREFULLY

No army can exist without doctors, of course. And the US Army had had chaplains for all of its existence. There would thus seem to have been no need for an organization created today by the officers of the Young Men’s Christian Association called the United States Christian Commission. The group nevertheless filled a vital function. Army “doctors” were surgeons, nothing more and nothing less, and were utterly unprepared for the number of victims of diseases rather than gunshots and bayonet perforations. The YMCA spinoff organized shipments of medical supplies for doctors, and Bibles and pamphlets for the chaplains. In cooperation with other groups such as the Sanitary Commissions, they were responsible for saving innumerable bodies as well as souls.



Saturday Nov. 15 1862
RUMBLING ROCKET WREAKS WRECKAGE

President Abraham Lincoln had no hobbies, few close friends, and did not go in for theater, music, or other frivolous entertainment. He did have one area of enjoyment that he just could not resist: he loved gadgets. He would go out at any hour to see demonstrations of new devices being shown off by their proud inventors, or undergoing testing by one or another military research office. Today, accompanied by Secretary of State William Seward and Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, he went to the Navy Yard, at the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. They were to watch Capt. John A. B. Dahlgren, commander of the yards, test a device called the Hyde rocket. It was set in its perforated launch tube, fired, and promptly exploded on the “pad”, showering debris all around. Dahlgren, horrified that he had nearly killed his commander-in-chief and wiped out the upper levels of the U.S. Government, ordered development of rocketry cancelled.



Sunday Nov. 15 1863
CHARLESTON CONFLICT CAUSES CONFUSION

The bombardment of Ft. Sumter had been going on for a few days now, and 2328 shells had been thrown at the dilapidated pile of masonry since Thursday. This evening the defenders responded, and the guns at Confederate Ft. Moultrie commenced their own bombardment of Cummings Point on Morris Island elsewhere in Charleston Harbor. Concerned that this might presage an amphibious attack, US. Gen. Gilmore asked his Navy counterpart, Admiral Dahlgren, to send some ships to screen the point. Dahlgren promptly sent the requested vessels, some tugs and the USS Lehigh, but it was after dark before they reached station. The Lehigh promptly ran aground. It proved impossible to free her till the tide turned at dawn, and she attracted heavy fire before getting out of range.



Tuesday Nov. 15 1864
DASTARDLY DEEDS DEEPEN DESOLATION

Most of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s army was headed out of Atlanta today on the first steps of the famous “March to the Sea.” Stripped of their wagons, except for what was needed to carry ammunition and other military equipment, their orders were to live off the land, foraging their food from the citizenry and leaving scorched earth behind them. Those who were not marching yet completed their final duty in Georgia’s largest city: they burned it. Orders were to exempt private homes and houses of worship, but most of the populace had been evacuated at gunpoint after the city was taken and the houses, even if unburned, were often looted of all possible valuables. The bitterness was incalculable.

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