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This Week in the Civil War
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Jan. 1: Clamor for war, Union Navy fights.
The year 1862 will open with the Union Army of the Potomac under Major Gen. McClellan facing popular and political pressure to engage in major combat with its Confederate foes. But McClellan has come down with typhoid and is ill in bed. President Abraham Lincoln is increasingly anxious to engage Southern secessionists in battle even as he wishes to give his general time to prepare for battle. New Year's Day of 1862 dawns though with some hostilities. On Jan. 1, 1862, Union warships unleash a barrage on targets around Pensacola, Fla., and the Confederates respond by bombarding Union-held Fort Pickens. But bigger fights lay ahead. New Year's Day sees Lincoln and his wife welcome members of the Supreme Court, foreign diplomats and leading Army and Navy officers at a White House reception. The Associated Press reports the Marine Band played "choice music" at the gathering and after midday, per customs of that era, the outside gates were thrown open to the public "when the large mass of impatient human beings rushed in for a visit to the President." Elsewhere, Union troops stationed across the Potomac River from Washington in northern Virginia are told not to let their bands go out on "serenading parties." As AP notes: "There has, it appears, been an excess of such music at night, and in many cases proved more an annoyance than a compliment." AP reports in a dispatch Jan. 2 from Nashville, Tenn., that some Confederate units have destroyed railroad tracks for several miles in the region. AP reports other movements by Confederate forces "we do not comprehend" and adds troop movements in several areas "point clearly to stormy events" ahead.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Jan. 8: Lincoln's war secretary resigns.
President Abraham Lincoln's outspoken war secretary, Simon Cameron, a canny old-time political boss from Pennsylvania, resigns the all-important Cabinet post on Jan. 14, 1862. Known for bold and even aggressive views on war measures, Cameron had drawn the ire of others in the Cabinet and departs amid angry complaints about his guidance of the federal War Department. Three days after being eased out by the Lincoln administration, Cameron will be appointed to a diplomatic post in distant Russia. In Cameron's place, Lincoln appoints Edwin Stanton, a capable administrator, as his new war secretary. The Cleveland Plain Dealer of Ohio hails Stanton's appointment as "The Right Man in the Right Place." It adds the appointment has given "great pleasure" to many in Washington. "They have confidence in his energy and pluck, and believe he will push on the war," the newspaper reports. Also this week, A Union expedition is clearing gale-force storms off Hatteras Inlet, intent on clearing Confederate forces from Roanoke Island close to North Carolina's Outer Banks ' part of a Navy strategy to take command of the sounds and inland waterways behind the islands that blockade runners have been using to supply the Confederate forces based in Richmond, Va. This week in 1862 also sees a reported attempt to blow up a Union military hospital just across the Potomac River from Washington in Alexandria, Va. The Associated Press, in a Jan. 9, 1861, dispatch, reports "a barrel had been secreted in the cellar filled with powder and projectiles and a fuse was found extending from there to the stable .. But this fact was fortunately discovered by the guard" and a slow-burning fuse was put out before the explosives could detonate.
This Week in the Civil War for week of Jan. 15, 1862: USS Hatteras Pounds Cedar Key, Fla.
The Union Navy, intent on further tightening the blockade on the South and seizing Confederate outposts all along its coast, dispatches the USS Hatteras to Cedar Key, Fla., this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. The warship destroys seven small ships suspected of blockade running that are loaded with cotton and other goods at this key supply point along Florida's Gulf coast. Dispatches of the era report heavy firing is heard for miles all around as the raid opens. Troops go ashore and destroy the railroad depot, which is at the western terminus of the Florida Railroad. They also damage the telegraph office and other buildings. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports afterward that Union forces rejoiced in the latest U.S. Naval victory. "It is gratifying to learn through a rebel source that we have captured Cedar Keys," the newspaper says in an extensive report on the ramifications. The newspaper account notes the Gulf Coast produces excellent cedar and other hardwoods for shipbuilding and that the raid has shut off a key supply source for Confederate shipbuilders. It notes Union Navy forces that also went to Key West and earlier seized Fort Pickens on the Florida Gulf Coast have had a string of startling successes in blocking Confederate supply routes to Florida through the Gulf of Mexico. With those areas under Union control, the paper boasts, "there is not much left of the state of Florida worth having." The USS Hatteras would go on to sink several suspected blockade runners in the Gulf before being sunk itself by a Confederate attack off the Texas coast later in the war.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Jan. 22: Confederate Beauregard Moved. Hatteras Storm.
Confederate Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard, who forced the Union surrender at Fort Sumter in 1861 that started the war, is reassigned this week and sent west to Tennessee. The general who also helped lead the Confederacy to victory at the First Battle of Manassas, or Bull Run, was one of the Confederacy's first war heroes. But he had begun to quarrel with Confederate President Jefferson Davis and others and was sent west partly because of that. He would now be the second in command under Albert Sidney Johnston in the Confederacy's Army of the Mississippi. Beauregard and Johnston sought to better fortify Confederate defenses along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers vulnerable to Union attack. But Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant would eventually take key forts along those rivers in the coming year, isolating the Confederacy from the West. Grant's early triumph at the Battle of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River in February 1862 would mark the first significant victory both for the Union and for Grant, who would later rise to the top military command and ultimately win the war. Elsewhere, Union Navy warships off Hatteras Inlet, N.C., weathered a severe storm this week in 1862. The Associated Press reports some boats in the fleet of more than 100 ships and vessels were swamped and three lives were lost as Union forces wait for better weather to attack Confederate outposts nearby. "Heavy wind and a rough sea caused our vessels to labor very heavily, and some were obliged to cut loose from the vessels they were towing," the AP dispatch quoted a Union source as stating, adding two Confederate vessels eyeing the fleet were chased off.