This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, March 18, 1862: Confederate Cabinet Shake-up. Stonewall Attacks.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis, beset by recent military setbacks, orders a major Cabinet reshuffle this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. The Confederate leader orders on March 18, 1862, that George W. Randolph _ a Virginia native and grandson of Thomas Jefferson _ take charge as Confederate war secretary. Randolph succeeds Judah P. Benjamin. Benjamin, who was criticized for his handling of the department and now moves to secretary of state. Randolph will go on in the next eight months to reorganize and bolster the Confederate war machinery for the battles ahead. Despite recent reversals for the Confederacy, the war is still young. An Associated Press dispatch in early March speaks of growing federal worries about a vexing Confederate commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, now roaming about the Virginia countryside. AP's correspondent reports: "Intelligence from Winchester leads to the belief that General Jackson is there in full force." Indeed, some 3,400 Confederate troops commanded by Jackson will clash with a far larger Union force of about 8,500 troops on March 23, 1862, not far away at Kernston, Va. Federal forces stop Jackson's daring drive, but his campaign sounds alarm bells in Washington. President Abraham Lincoln, wary of Jackson's threat to the capital from Virginia's neighboring Shenandoah Valley, redirects forces to defend Washington just when Union Gen. George B. McClellan is pressing for all the troops the federal War Department can spare him. McClellan argues a huge force is needed for an all-out attack on Richmond he is orchestrating, his Virginia Peninsula Campaign. And after his campaign ulimately fails later in 1862, McClellan will claim he could have captured the seat of the Confederacy if he had had those spare troops at his disposition.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, March 25, 1862: Fighting out West. McClellan's moves.
A battle unfolded out West 150 years ago this week during the Civil War. On March 26, 1862, a Confederate force of about 300 Texas fighters camped near Glorieta Pass in New Mexico Territory _ a strategic location at the southernmost end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the Santa Fe trail. Several hundred approaching Union soldiers led by Maj. John M. Chivington went on the attack, pressing in on the Confederates until artillery fire repulsed the federal fighters. Chivington split his force into two groups on each side of the pass and put the Rebels in a crossfire before fighting halted for the day. The next day both sides regrouped and fighting wouldn't resume again until March 28, 1862, with the Union side swelled by hundreds of reinforcements. Confederates held their ground as the battle surged back and forth in the coming hours. Eventually a wearied Confederate force retreated to Santa Fe _ and eventually back to Texas _ securing a strategic Union victory out West. Elsewhere Union Gen. George B. McClellan has begun his long-awaited step of moving his troops, weapons and supplies to Fort Monroe off Virginia as he prepares for a major assault on Richmond, capital of the Confederacy. Many Southerners grow anxious to defend Richmond against capture. The Springfield Republican in Massachusetts, indicates McClellan has already lost an element of surprise ahead of what would be his ill-fated Virginia peninsula campaign. A dispatch in the paper reported: "The latest accounts from Richmond show that the rebels are crowding troops down upon the York and James River, showing they know where to expect Gen. McClellan."
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, April 1, 1862: Battle of Shiloh. McClellan Moves.
Thousands of Confederate troops unleash a surprise attack on Union camps at Shiloh Church near Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River on April 6, 1862. The onslaught surprises Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his tens of thousands of fighters massed there. But the federal forces rally and bitter fighting rages for hours as Confederates slowly gain ground. Despite the advantage of surprise, Confederate troops become disorganized before Grant's pummeled forces hunker behind defensive positions and fighting subsides at nightfall. The next day, Grant goes on the attack. His Union forces totaling more than 54,000 troops, slam into Confederate ranks, eventually forcing their withdrawal and securing the Union a victory that further burnishes Grant's reputation as a general who fights and wins. Elsewhere, Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan has sent out first forces of his vast army from Fort Monroe on the Virginia coast as he ramps up for his long-awaited Virginia peninsula campaign. Soon, those Union troops meet a small Confederate army at `Yorktown, dug in behind the Warwick River. Confederate Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder uses theatrics _ including frequent marching back and forth of troops and loudly shouted orders _ to convincingly suggest he has a far bigger force than he actually has. The Union forces are swayed by the Confederate show. McClellan suspends moves toward Richmond and orders siege fortifications built. Heavy guns are brought up by Union forces and on April 16, Union forces testing the Confederate line trigger a battle that leads to more than 300 casualties. McClellan hesitates to follow up, delaying two more weeks and Magruder's forces will ultimately slip away. But a major ground campaign long promised by McClellan is on.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, April 8, 1862: Shiloh's fallout. War's first anniversary. Lincoln's early emancipation move.
Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant sends troops in pursuit of Confederate fighters retreating after the battle at Shiloh, or Pittsburgh Landing, in Tennessee. But a feisty Confederates rearguard led by Nathan Bedford Force thwarts the Union pursuit, allowing the secessionists to slip away. It is a difficult week for the Confederacy as word of their loss at Shiloh reaches Richmond. The news for the secessonists stands in glum contrast to celebrations one year ago this week in the South. The first shots of war were fired April 12, 1861, at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. That Confederate bombardment _ and the subsequent Union surrender of that federal garrison at Fort Sumter _ kicked off wild celebrations on April 14, 1861 in Charleston. A year later, euphoria has given way to the grim reality of the deadly grind of war. Shiloh's two days of pitched fighting end with more than 23,000 men killed, wounded or missing on both sides _ the bloodiest battle in U.S. history at the time and a portent of big battles to come. The Associated Press reports Shiloh's outcome in an April 13 dispatch, reporting "the beginning of the fight on that day was a total surprise" for the Union as Confederates attacked _ "many officers and soldiers being overtaken in their tents and slaughtered or taken prisoners." The dispatch notes the Union attacked back the second day of Shiloh "and the rebels soon gave way." It adds one captured Confederate prisoner told officers the Southern fighters were told a Confederate victory "was a sure thing" and that "they could not fail to capture Grant's army." On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signs the Compensated Emancipation Act, freeing thousands of slaves in the nation's capital. It is an early prelude in wartime to what would eventually be the formal end of slavery across the U.S. as a result of the conflict.
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