This Day in the Civil War

Sunday Nov. 17 1861

The Anaconda Plan, as it had been called, was the overall Union strategy to win the Civil War. It required two essential things to succeed: recapture and control of the Mississippi River, to cut the Eastern Confederacy off from the West, and a blockade of all possible shipping from overseas. The blockade’s effectiveness had been slow to develop, due to a shortage of vessels and sailors to man them, but this was starting to change. The Union gunboat Connecticut seized a heavily-loaded British ship trying to sneak through the blockade off the coast of Florida. The capture was completed just off a small promontory known as Cape Canaveral.

Monday Nov. 17 1862

At this stage in the War, the Army of the Potomac was not divided up into Corps, but instead had just two parts, the Left and Right Grand Divisions. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, who had been in command of the army for barely a week, was still getting used to the reins of command at this level, but he knew one thing for sure: he had to do some fighting. He had therefore directed the men to head in the general direction of Fredericksburg, Va. The Right Grand Division, under command of Gen. Edwin Vose Sumner, arrived today on the heights of Falmouth, across the Rappahannock River from the destination. It did not take very much cavalry scouting to follow a force of this size, and the Confederates were well aware of their movements.

Tuesday Nov. 17 1863

There had been several attempts to tackle the Western jewel of the Confederate States of America, Texas, but none had succeeded very well or lasted very long. Another such strike was made today, and this time considerably greater force was being employed. The USS Monongahela was the escort gunboat for a fleet of troop transporters. They, in turn, were carrying more than a thousand soldiers as they traveled toward Aransas Pass, Tex. The immediate target was the Confederate garrison guarding this pass from Mustang Island. After a preliminary softening-up barrage from the ships’ guns, an amphibious landing was made. The defenders, trapped, had no solution but surrender, and the first day went well for the Union.

Thursday Nov. 17 1864

When William Tecumseh Sherman was settling the structure of his army, he had divided it into left and right wings. Each wing was made up of two corps each, under commanders Sherman considered solid and capable of maneuvering units of that size. They were all pulling away from the ruins of Atlanta today, but they were going by four different roads. The intent was to confuse any Southern spies as to their true intention and destination. As a deception it worked perfectly; observers, each seeing only one corps on the move, reported that Sherman was just doing some local maneuvering. Even if the reports had been correlated at a higher level, there was not much the Confederacy could have done about the March to the Sea, as they had no substantial forces close enough to act.

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