This Day in the Civil War

Sunday Nov. 24 1861

He was the nearly-illiterate son of a backwoods Tennessee blacksmith. He took over the support of his large family at the age of 16 when his father died, and by now, age 40, was a wealthy Memphis merchant. The regiment he raised and commanded set forth today on their first mission, into Kentucky. Debate still rages today whether he should be officially considered a “cavalryman” in the classic sense, or as mere “mounted infantry”. Having no training in either, Nathan Bedford Forrest didn’t care either way. His philosophy of “get there first, with the most men” made him one of the most feared Confederate commanders of the Western theater.

Monday Nov. 24 1862

Gen. Joseph Eggleston Johnston, Confederate States Army, was appointed to overall command of an immense territory in the Western part of the Confederacy. His command included all of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, as well as western North Carolina, northern Georgia and eastern Louisiana. Fortunately for General Johnston, most of these areas were peaceful and productive and gave him no trouble. Unfortunately he also faced one of the biggest problems in the war: preventing Union forces, including one U.S. Grant, from retaking control of the Mississippi River. His primary assistants in this endeavor were Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee, which was now moving in the direction of Murfreesboro south of Nashville, and Gen. John C. Pemberton, who was in overall charge of defending Vicksburg in northern Mississippi.

Tuesday Nov. 24 1863

The efforts which took the collective name of “The Battle of Chattanooga” entered their second day today with what is known as the Battle of Lookout Mountain. Three divisions under Joseph Hooker clambered across Lookout Creek in the morning and started to fight their way up the hill. Heavy fog shrouded the area, and commanders down below had no way of observing the action, causing this day’s event to be known as “The Battle Above the Clouds.” About halfway up the mountain was a level patch known as Craven’s Farm, and there the Confederates put up a spirited defense for a short time. They soon withdrew, as planned, to the main defensive line on Missionary Ridge. Gen. William T. Sherman’s men triumphantly took the north end of the ridge, thinking they had pulled off a brilliant flanking maneuver. They would have, except for the fact that a large ravine separated the piece they were on from the one the Confederates were on.

Thursday Nov. 24 1864

The long March to the Sea continued through Georgia today, as the last of Sherman’s men pulled out of the capital of Milledgeville. The man designated to lead the defense on this play got a message from the head coach today: “When the purpose of the enemy shall be developed,” wrote Jefferson Davis to Gen. W. J. Hardee, “every effort must be made to obstruct the route on which he is moving, and all other available means must be employed to delay his march, as well to enable our forces to be concentrated as to reduce him to want of the necessary supplies.” Hardee could be forgiven for a growl at being told the obvious. He had no idea what route Sherman would take, out of several possible roads; and concentrating every man he had would still not have been enough to block even one.

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