General Winfield Scott’s plan to defeat the Confederate States needed a river navy to succeed in the West and an ocean navy to succeed in the East. In the last blog, I outlined the creation of the Brown River Navy with the building of the Pook boats under the direction of an engineer named Eads. Before those boats were delivered at the end of 1861, steam driven river paddle boats were refitted to carry troops & supplies with others armed with mortars and artillery to support military activity on the Western rivers.
The first of such military activity was on September 3rd, 1861 at Columbus, KY when CSA General Polk occupied the eastern bluffs at this site to dominate the Mississippi River just south of Cairo, IL
Then, on September 6th, under orders from General Fremont, General Grant took a force up the Ohio River and occupied Paducah, KY. Located on the Ohio River. The fort at Paducah gave the Union control of the exits of the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. Grant’s force occupied the city and it’s dominating fort without firing a shot. His move preceded a Confederate force that was just sixteen miles East, moving to take the river city for the CSA.
Subsequently, General Fremont was replace by General Halleck. Not a Grant supporter, Halleck non-the-less ordered Grant to attack Confederate forces at Belmont, MO south of Cairo, Ill. It was on the West side of the 800 yard wide Mississippi River across from the Confederate stronghold of Columbus, KY.
So, Grant loaded his troops on converted river boats and moved his force South from Cairo, IL.. They unloaded north of Belmont early in the morning and surprised the Confederate force there. Grant’s force was later repulsed, retreating to the river where they left the area on their river transports under the protective fire of Union gunboats.
Back in Washington City, President Lincoln was pressing for more action in the Western theater. General Halleck, much like his superior General-in-Chief McClellan hesitated to attack Confederate positions in his theater of operations. General Grant proposed an attack on Forts Henry and Donelson.
See the map I sent you earlier.
Capturing these two positions for the Union would be catastrophic for the CSA’s war strategy in the West. Never-the-less, Halleck denied Grant permission to proceed. We will cover this issue in a future blog.
The first such Thanksgiving celebration likely happened between September and November in 1621 in the Plymouth Bay colony. It was a day set aside to thank the Lord for the harvest. Whether or not they were invited, 90 Wampanoag Indians under the leader Massasoit attended. Edward Winslow said of the event:
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the company almost a week, at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer.”
What was served at this first thanksgiving in the Plymouth Colony? As you read from Winslow’s quote, fowl and deer were served. It is reported by Sara Josepha Hale in the Goody’s Lady’s Book that turkey was the fowl served. In addition, fish, mussels and oysters, corn dishes,and breads were prepared for all the attendees.
The custom continued in New England after the fall harvest but not in the rest of the country. The Continental Congress declared the first national Thanksgiving to be celebrated on December 8, 1777. In 1789, George Washington declared the fourth Thursday of November a day of thanksgiving and prayer. James Madison did likewise during his presidency. Few future presidents did this.
But in 1845, Sarah Josepha Hale began campaigning for such an annual day of thanksgiving. Finally in 1863, (During the Civil War) Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be a national day of day of thanks, and a holiday.
“It seems to me fit and proper that they (gifts) should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do therefore, invite my fellow citizens to every part of the United States, and also those who are at seas and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
New York volunteers sent 400,000 pounds of turkey by ship to Grant’s army at City Point, VA for the observance of Thanksgiving in 1863. The observance of Thanksgiving continued to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November until President Roosevelt changed it to the fourth Thursday of November. It was codified into law in December 1941. It has remained a national legal holiday on the fourth Thursday of November ever since.
The next blog will review the first major Union victory of the war. Do you remember it? It was during the winter of 1862. Was it in the East or the West? Tune in during December. Happy Thanksgiving all.
Before Fort Sumter was fired upon by Confederate forces in Charleston, South Carolina, President Lincoln asked General Scott to give him advice concerning the use of force to solve the secession issue in general and the holding of Forts Sumter and Pickins in particular.
The General advised the President that the Union could not hold Sumter against attack or recapture it without a civil war. He followed this observation with the opinion that a war to force the seceding states back into the Union would take a huge army, great loss of life and treasure and several years to accomplish. In addition, such a war would entail such widespread devastation in the South that bitterness/hatred between the sections would last for generations.
So, he recommended that President Lincoln turn over the two forts over to Confederate control and allow the cotton states to leave the Union in peace.
Lincoln rejected General Scott’s recommendation.
After Fort Sumter was fired upon and captured by Confederate forces, Lincoln once again asked his chief military adviser for his recommendations given the new situation.
The United States had been attacked. So, this time Lincoln was asking General Scott to give him recommendations about how to win a war. The general recommended several steps be taken immediately.
First: Create a blockade of the Confederate States preventing all commerce with the outside world.
Second: Immediately begin a campaign to recapture control of the Mississippi River and it’s tributaries.
Third: Do not invade the Confederate States of America in the East; rather control the eastern boarders.
He believed that by employing these three strategies, the Union would accomplish it’s Primary Goal of re-uniting the country, avoiding massive destruction within the Confederate states and avoiding great loss of life and treasure.
Lincoln agreed and immediately implemented the first recommendation by declaring an Embargo of all the ports of the Confederacy, warning all the nations of the world that they would be prevented from trading with the states in secession.
And secondly, the War Department took the first step in reclaiming control of the Mississippi River by authorizing the creation of a Brown River Navy to be operational by January 1862.
The third strategy recommended by Scott of a holding action in the East immediately came under fire from the Northern press. On to Richmond was their daily chant. Attack and finish this rebellion quickly, their goal. Lincoln was accused of everything from cowardice to being a traitor for not attacking the Confederacy in the East. So, he and his cabinet caved to the pressure and ordered General McDowell to gather the newly formed Union volunteer army and attack southward to Richmond.
The South’s hero of Fort Sumter, General Beauregard, waited with his 60,000 net to be trained men for the attack of McDowell’s force of the similar size. The two poorly trained and poorly organized forces fought at Bull Ron. With last minute reinforcements sent via train by Confederate General Joe Johnston, the Union force was routed. As a result, the Union capital was left virtually undefended but the Confederates did not pursue their advantage.
II In the immediate aftermath, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, refused to press the attack against the North, did not get the CSA’s finances or rail lines in order, withheld the CSA’s cotton from Europe, did not strengthen its military capability with equipment delivered from Europe before the Northern embargo tightened, and sought to fight a defensive war.
He gave Lincoln and the Union what it needed most, time. Time was given the Union to organize a war-time economy, to establish control of its rail systems, reorganize and equip an overwhelming army in the East and another in the West. A river navy authorized in July would be ready in 1862, to begin regaining control of the Ohio, Tennessee,& Cumberland Rivers and eventually, the mighty Mississippi River. And, build a high seas navy more capable of enforcing the Union embargo of the South.
So, the consequence of President Davis’s defensive tactic put all the major Western rivers in Union hands by the end of April 1862. And, Lincoln’s forces would control all but Vicksburg on the Mississippi River from Memphis to New Orleans. As a result, the Confederacy would be almost split in half, the embargo would be more effective and the Confederate heartland would soon be open to invasion.
By the end of 1862, the North was ready. The River Navy was on the water, the ocean Navy was enlarged, the blockade was becoming more effective by the day, the huge Army of the Potomac was ready to invade in the East. And, in the West, the Union army was ready to take on the superior land forces of the Confederacy.
The defensive strategy dictated by Confederate President Davis had given what the Union needed most after the Bull Run defeat: time. Davis and his people did not use this time well. Lincoln and his people did.
So, now it is time for us to begin chronicling the War in the West. Get out your map and find Cairo, Ill. tTat is where we will begin next week. See you then.
Miles of Track:
N – 21,300 Miles of track & 45,000 miles of telegraph wire. By 1865 the North had the largest system in the world.
S – 9,022 Miles of track & 5,000 miles of telegraph wire. System was destroyed by war.
Railroad Act of 1861
Both North & south passed legislation allowing governments to take over control of railroads for military purposes.
N – In the North railroads connect all major cities and 88% of farmers were no more than 5 M from a railroad.
S – In the South railroads were built to connect cotton centers to navigable rivers/ports. Pre-war private capital was invested in land/slaves not railroads.
N – All one track gauage used.
S – Four tract gauges used.
The first major battle of the Civil War was the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas). Confederate forces under General Beauregard were losings to the Federals under General McDowell. Losing that is, until General Joe Johnson and General Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson arrived by train from the Shenandoah Valley. The federals were subsequently routed leaving Washington City virtually open to invasion by Southern forces.
Thereafter, the Confederates would repeatedly move troops and equipment to the point of Federal attack. Thus, early in the conflict, railroads became a critical element in the war.
So, realizing the importance of railroads, legislation called the Railroad and Telegraph Act of Jan. 1862 was signed by President Lincoln into law. This gave him the power to take possession of railroads and run them as required by the needs of the war. He did not hesitate to use that power when he felt it necessary.
(Photographs above: CSA President Jefferson Davis and Union General Daniel Mc Callum)
Lincoln’s attitude, the firm hand of General Daniel Mc Callum in the War Department and the willingness to pay market rates for rail use, caused most all Northern railroad owners to cooperate.The oners of the railroads became rich doing so as well. General Mc Callum ran (controlled) the largest rail network in the world during the war.
The Confederate government passed similar legislation. But, it was not aggressively used by President Davis. And, Southern railroads did not receive adequate compensation. So, absent force and the carrot of adequate money cooperation of Southern railroad owners in support of the war effort was tepid at best.
In addition, Southern railroads were weakened by:
1. Lack of replacement rolling stock, rails and spare parts, (all supplied from the North prior to the War.)
2. Several rail gauges in use and non-standard equipment used by 113 RR different companies made coordination/use difficult.
3. Railroads did not have adequate connections to and within cities.
4. Lack of central control: weak leadership In Richmond and ‘states rights’. Made the use of railroads difficult.
Both governments had the stick and both reached similar agreements with the privately-owned railroads. President Lincoln used the stick and President Davis did not. the CSA paid in increasingly worthless bonds while the Union paid in sound currency.
The Union had the will (national control) and much more rail in place to connect major cities as well as the countryside. They also had the capacity to build rail and manufacture spare parts and seemingly endless amounts of rolling stock. The South had none of these capabilities.
The final irreparable damage done Southern rail was the destruction of Southern rail lines by the Union armies fighting on Confederate soil. On his march from Atlanta to Savannah Sherman’s men called what they did to rail lines, Sherman’s Neckties.
Northern Railroads in 1860: 1
Just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the United States contained five percent of the world’s population. But, the country contained almost 50% of the world’s rail track.
Northern railroads served a rapid growth in industrial needs. Thus, an enormous amount of capital was directed to the expansion of railroads. In the South, however railroads served the agricultural economy’s seasonal needs.Most of the available capital there,went to the acquisition of land and slaves.
I will continue the description/analysis of railroads in the Civil War in the next news letter.
RAILROADS IN THE CIVIL WAR: Newsletter #1
Just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the United States contained five percent of the world’s population. But, the country contained almost 50% of the world’s rail miles.
Northern railroads served the rapid growth of the industrial economy’s needs there. Thus, an enormous amount of capital was directed to the expansion of railroads. In the South, railroads served the agricultural economy’s seasonal needs. Most of the available capital there, went to the acquisition of land and slaves.
As you can see from the above railroad map most of the rail line served the United States in the mid-west and along the east coast. You can also see that because of the rail lines in the Mississippi Valley, rail centers like Nashville, Memphis. Chattanooga, Corinth & Vicksburg became important military objectives of the attacking Union forces.
I will continue the description/analysis of railroads in the Civil War in subsequent newsletters.
CONTROL OF THE WESTERN RIVERS
Ulysses S. Grant, a political appointee of the Illinois governor, had been given command of troops stationed in Cairo, Illinois. In January of 1862, Grant suggested to his superior, General Halleck that he be allowed to attack Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and following that attack, Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River. Halleck refused to approve this proposal. It wasn’t that Halleck did not feel the project had merit. Rather, he just did not want to approve such a venture under Grant’s command.
Halleck did not like or trust Grant. His animosity went back to their service days in California. There, Halleck knew Grant as a man who could not hold his liquor; a man who was forced to resign his army commission or face a court martial for being intoxicated while on duty.
But the Grant of 1861 was a sober man. Marriage and family had changed him considerably. This war had given him another chance at something at which he excelled; military leadership. Once the governor of Illinois gave him command of troops, he was determined to succeed.
He had sent some of his men east to occupy the fort at Paducah on the Ohio River in August of 1861. He also enlisted the support of naval Captain Foote for a joint naval/army operation against the two forts mentioned earlier. Halleck knew the strategic importance of these two forts. and, Grant and Foote’s proposal came at the same time Lincoln was putting pressure on Halleck to begin some sort of offensive operation in the West. So, the second time Grant & Foote offered their proposal, Halleck authorized the project.
The approval came at the very time that the new shallow draft military river craft were being delivered to Halleck’s command. In January 1862, naval Captain Foote took delivery of seven City Class ironclads. Designed for river use, they only needed seven feet of water. It was said they could sail on the mist.
These boats provided the foundation for Lincoln’s Brown River Navy on the Mississippi River north of Vicksburg. Their use spearheaded the success of Union forces in that arena during 1862.
The Union’s Brown River Navy defeated it’s Confederate opponent in every engagement.
Once General Robert E. Lee took over command of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, he faced, in succession, several celebrated northern Generals. These Union leaders had much larger forces and had more and better equipment at their disposal. Despite that, Lee’s army won his battles against them or at least escaped destruction at their hands during the Civil War in the East.
These Union men included Generals Pope, McClellan, Burnside, Hooker and Meade. Only General Meade clearly defeated Lee. but even he, was a disappointment to President Lincoln because he did not follow-up his success at Gettysburg. Instead he allowed Lee to get his defeated army back to Virginia to defend Richmond, the Confederate capital.
It also has been argued that in September 1862. General McClellan defeated Lee at Antietam. But there too, Lee was allowed to escape with his battered army. Lincoln thought Lee’s army could have been destroyed following that battle.
Confederate successes at the Seven Days’ Battles, 2nd Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville together with the high casualty rate at Antietam, took a heavy toll on Lee’s forces.
For example, Lee’s success at the battle of Chancellorsville, cost him almost a quarter of his army. This was followed within two months with his losing an additional third of this same army at Gettysburg; that is, at least 50% of the Army of Northern Virginia’s strength was lost within a three month period.
And later, under the relentless pressure of General Grant’s attacks, Les’s army continued to decline in strength. Finally, in the spring of 1865, Lee surrendered a force of not many more than 10,000 starving men; the remains of the once powerful Army of Northern Virginia.
To view more Civil War blogs go to www.civilwarnovels.com
Located in the worst slums of Washington City and surrounded by brothels and bars, Harvey’s Oyster Saloon catered to solders of all ranks as well as the rich, famous and powerful Washingtonians; President and Mrs. Lincoln included.
According to an 1861 article in the Evening Star newspaper, Tom and George Harvey founded this restaurant before the Civil War broke out. In the pre-war building there were no chairs only elevated tables. A customer could order a gallon of boiled (later steamed) oysters for .25 cents and all the hot butter and freshly baked bread he or she wanted.
Once the city was flooded with troops and those seeking government war contracts, the restaurant seemed to be always jammed. Long lines of customers were commonplace. That’s when the brothers stopped boiling their oysters and went with the faster process of steaming them.
Following the war, the Harvey brothers moved their restaurant to a better part of Washington. They remained a landmark in the city for another century.