June 20, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

Civil War IV / 1862

5 min read
Battle of Antietam

Battle of Antietam

After a breather from the Civil War, I am back with the next portion: Civil War IV, 1862. If you haven’t been keeping up, check out Part I, Part II, and Part III.

General Ulysses S. Grant

1862–the second year of turmoil and bloodshed starts. After a month or more with no advance from the Union Army, President Lincoln was beginning to grow impatient. On January 27, 1862, Lincoln issued General War Order No. 1, which called for all US naval and land forces to begin a general advance on or before February 22, 1862. Abraham Lincoln believed that all the forces were lackluster for the war, especially General George McClellan. While General Ulysses S. Grant was kicking butt and taking names in Tennessee, capturing Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, General McClellan was hesitant to attack. This continual hesitation forced President Lincoln to remove General McClellan from his current post of supreme command and he was demoted to commander of the Army of the Potomac, and was ordered to attack Richmond, the capital of the CSA. From here, President Lincoln would now call the military shots for the United States Armed Forces. The Army of Potomac, now led by General McClellan, would launch a set of strategic attacks known as The Peninsular Campaign, which would last from March-August.

It is crazy how sometimes you get freebie history lessons as I attempt to explain a current history lesson! Here comes one now…

To understand the first battle of The Peninsular Campaign and its effect on naval engineering, you must first understand the history of ironclad warships. To break it down very, very quickly, one needs to know that ironclad ships are steam-propelled ships that are protected by iron or steel armored plates. Ironclad warships weren’t invented until 1855, by the French. Being a new technology, most countries did not yet have fleets or easy access to ironclad ships. On March 9th, the first naval engagement–ever!–between two ironclad ships took place. (In case you missed it, yes–we are back on the Civil War and the Peninsular Campaign. The first ironclad battle was took place in the Civil War.) This would be a crucial battle for attempted naval control. The duel between these two ironclad ships ended in a stalemate, but not before several wooden ships were sunk. Once both sides witnessed the strength of the ironclad ships, both sides (and also all other nations) would stop production of wooden-hulled ships and focus on what made the ironclads so successful.

The Monitor and Merrimac

On April 6, 1862, Confederate troops, under the direction of Albert Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard, launched a surprise attack on General Ulysses Grant in Shiloh, Tennessee.  (As a child, I visited Shiloh National Park and sadly did not appreciate the historical significance.  🙁  I remember it as a large open field with a “bloody pond”, or something to that effect.) By the end of the day, the Union Army all was but defeated. Both sides suffered unheard of losses, 13,000 Union soldiers and 11,000 Confederate troops, making the Battle of Shiloh the deadliest battle of all American wars combined (to its date.) By sunrise, the Union Army’s reinforcements had arrived. At this point the Confederate forces retreated, and out of exhaustion the Union Army did not advance.

Flag Officer David Farragut

On April 25th, Flag Officer David Farragut would successfully drive seventeen Union ships up the Mississippi River and take New Orleans, which was the South’s largest seaport. (David Farragut, at a later date, would be the man who utters the famous phrase “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”) Having already established ship blockades on the east coast and now having control of the biggest port on the Mississippi River, importing and exporting via ship would become a difficult task for the South.

On May 31st, the Confederate Army, under the command of General Joseph E. Johnson, attacked Union forces at Seven Pines, in Henrico County, Virginia. The Union Army, under the command of General McClellan, was almost defeated, but again last-minute reinforcements showed up and kept the Union Army from suffering a crushing defeat. While both sides claim this war as a victory, the most important event that came out of this battle was that General Johnson was severally injured and was immediately relieved of duty. At this time, President Jefferson appointed General Robert E. Lee as the new General of  the Army of Northern Virginia.

If you are geographically challenged, you might not be aware as to how close Washington D.C. (the United States’ capital) was to Richmond, Virginia (the Confederate States of America’s capital.) Now, I am not aware of road and traveling distances in 1865, but Google Maps says: 108 miles. With capital cities this close, control of the area between the two was crucial. After the Battle of Seven Pines, General McClellan was within six miles of Richmond, Virginia. With no room for error, both Generals Lee and McClellan would spend the next few weeks drawing up plans to attempt to control the fate of Richmond. On June 26, 1862, The Seven Days’ Battles would commence.

The Seven Days’ Battles (Oak Grove, Mechanicsville, Ganies’s Mill, Savage’s Station, Frayser’s Farm, and Malvern Hill) was fought with victory going to the South.  The importance of these battles were that the South pushed back the Union Army from the six miles that it was away from Richmond all the way to twenty miles from Washington D.C. and that anyone who believed that the war was going to be short was gravely mistaken; northern morale was effectively crushed. Only July 11th, President Lincoln relinquished his command and Major-General Henry Halleck was named general-in-chief of the Union Army.


Battle of Antietam
Battle of Antietam

There were dozens of battles fought here and there in 1862 (that are not as significant and are boring), but they all pale in comparison to the Battle of Antietam, near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The Battle of Antietam was significant for two reasons: the first was because this was the first major battle to take place on Union soil, and second because this battle, to date, is the bloodiest day in U.S. military history. On September 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam ending with a Confederate retreat and 26,000 total casualties.  Although this was seen as a poor victory because General Lee was not vanquished or captured, President Lincoln was confident enough with the victory to issue a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. On September 22nd, Lincoln issued a proclamation stating that he would order the emancipation of all slaves in any state of the CSA that did not return to the Union.

President Lincoln was still unsatisfied with General George McClellan’s performance and his lack of enthusiasm, so General McClellan was replaced as commander of the Army of Potomac on November 7th. General Ambrose E. Burnside was appointed the new commander of the Army of Potomac and directed to start an attack in Fredericksburg, Virginia. General Burnside suffered a horrible defeat and was replaced (as Lincoln does best) by General Joseph Hooker.

This completes the lesson for Civil War, 1862. Stick around for the next lesson: Civil War V / 1863.

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5 thoughts on “Civil War IV / 1862

    1. Well stick around! I am always open for subjects to write about and the opportunity to learn new history for myself. I bet I can get a whole entry on him… 🙂

        1. Love it, Toaster. I’d be interested in some posts about names of places that were named after famous generals. For example, almost every county in Arkansas is named after a CW general.

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