Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Frémont Proclaims the South's Slaves Free

John C. Fremont
Today John C. Frémont issued a proclamation declaring the slaves in his military district free. Frémont was a famous explorer, and earned the name “The Pathfinder” for mapping a trail across the Rocky Mountains. Although he was from Georgia, he was the first presidential candidate of the Republican party. The Republican party was founded on the idea of opposing slavery. He lost the election, but four years later Lincoln won the election. Frémont was appointed a Major General, and appointed commander of the Department of the West, with his attention focused on the fighting in Missouri. Today Frémont issued a proclamation declaring martial law in Missouri. This was the most controversial part:
All persons who shall be taken with arms in their hands, within these lines, shall be tried by Court Martial, and, if found guilty, will be shot. The property, real and personal, of all persons in the State of Missouri, who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall be directly proven to have taken active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use, and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free men.
Abraham Lincoln
The most debated part was saying the Confederates' slaves would be freed. As we will see, Lincoln was not ready for this. Although he would release a similar Emancipation Proclamation less than a year and a half later, at the time he wrote:
You speak of [Fremont's proclamation] as being the only means of saving the government. On the contrary it is itself the surrender of the government. Can it be pretended that it is any longer the government of the U.S.—any government of Constitution and laws,—wherein a General, or a President, may make permanent rules of property by proclamation?
I do not say Congress might not with propriety pass a law, on the point, just such as General Fremont proclaimed ...What I object to, is, that I as President, shall expressly or impliedly seize and exercise the permanent legislative functions of the government.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hatteras Forts Surrender

USS Pawnee
During the night, reinforcements had arrived at Fort Hatteras. They hoped they might be able to hold out with more troops that were on the way. But in the morning the Northern fleet returned. They found they could stand just outside the range of the fort's guns and pour in a heavy fire. They were able to keep away a ship bringing more reinforcements to the garrison. The fort remained under this fire for three hours. At that point, even though they had suffered few casualties, they decided to surrender. The white flag was shown at 11:00 AM. Almost 700 men surrendered with the fort. The capture of these forts opened up the way for further Union attacks on North Carolina and Southwest Virginia. It also gave the Northern people a morale boost after the defeat at Bull Run.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries

The Fleet Attacks Hatteras
Today the North began an attack on the Confederate Forts at Hatteras Inlet. Cape Hatteras stretches along the entire eastern border of the United States. During the Civil War it had important strategic significance. It provided access to Norfolk, an important Confederate naval base. The Northern trading ships would travel through the sound where the Confederate ships could easily capture them. The Confederates, knowing the North would not allow them to continue these attacks without an effort to stop them, built to forts at Hatteras Inlet, Fort Hatteras and Fort Clark. But the forts were very weak. They only mounted 15 guns, and only part of a regiment, the 7th North Carolina, occupied the fort. The Federals 880 men under Gen. Benjamin Butler to capture the fort. With him went seven ships, the USS MinnesotaCumberlandSusquehannaWabashPawneeMonticello, and Harriet Lane.
USS Wabash
The Northern fleet opened fire upon Fort Clark on the morning of August 28th and the defenders returned fire. Neither was very accurate, but soon the defenders ran out of ammunition and abandoned the fort. Moving on to Fort Hatteras, they continued the bombardment. The commander kept his ships moving to avoid being hit by the fort. But this also had the side effect of the gunners not being able to correct their shots at the fort. The defenders kept up a slow fire to avoid running out of ammunition. At one point, the flag having been shot away, the commander thought the fort had surrendered. The Monticello, sailing in to determine the truth, received the fire of the fort as she drew closer. She grounded, and was hit five times by the fire of the fort. However, she received no serious damage. Butler had attempted to land his troops for a land attack, but owing to the high waves, less than half of them had reached the shore. When evening arrived, the bombardment ceased and both forces waited to renew the contest the next day.
Troops land on Hatteras

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Confederate Ambassadors Appointed

James Mason
Today, 150 years ago, three ambassadors were sent by the Confederate government to Europe to be ambassadors there. One of the South's main hopes for victory was through foreign intervention. They knew the North had more men and resources, but many of the leaders hoped that foreign nations would come to their aid because of their need for cotton. A large part of England's economy came from processing the South's cotton, but they could not get any during the war because the North was blockading the South. So the South hoped that King Cotton would bring them on their side.
John Slidell
The three ambassadors sent were James Mason to England, John Slidell to France, and Pierre A. Rost to Spain. However, two of these men would do the Confederacy their greatest service before they even arrived in Europe.

Pierre A. Rost

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Battle of Wilson's Creek

Battle of Wilson's Creek
The Battle of Wilson's Creek began at 5:30 a.m. when Lyon launched a surprise attack on the Confederate camp. The Confederates were at first surprised, but under the cover of their artillery they were able to form on a ridge known as Bloody Hill. General Price, the Confederate commander, is able to resist a Union attack.

The other Union column, under Sigel’s command was delayed, and they did not attack until after Lyon. They were successful at first as well, but the Confederates rallied, and advanced to repel the attack. Sigel's men, seeing the 3rd Louisiana Infantry advancing toward them, thought they were the 3rd Iowa Infantry, which wore gray as well. At a close distance they fired a volley and charged, destroying Sigel's men and throwing them into rout. They fled, losing four cannon.

General Lyon

However, since the Union forces were separated by some distance, Lyon was not aware of this defeat. Price launched three attacks against the Union line, but he was unable to break it, once coming within 20 steps of the Northern troops. Lyon was shot as he was bringing up reinforcements. As Price was preparing for a fourth attack, news was brought to the Northern commander of Sigel's defeat. Knowing they were greatly outnumbered and the assault was already a failure, a retreat was ordered, which was conducted in an orderly fashion. The Confederates, tired from their attacks and losses, did not pursue.

The losses were similar on both sides, 1,200 or 1,300. After the battle Price wished to continue his advance with the Missouri troops, but his allies from the neighboring states refused. So he continued North without them, while they left the state.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Confederate Advanced into Missouri

Gen. Sterling Price
After the Missouri State guard and Gov. Claiborne Jackson were forced into exile, the governor's office was declared vacant and a new, pro-Northern governor was selected. But the pro-Confederates would not give up that easily. After being re-enforced, Gen. Sterling Price, commander of the Missouri militia had advanced forward into Missouri. Even though his troops were of bad quality, Price determined to press forward to capture Springfield, where the Union troops were encamped.

Lyon, being outnumbered by over two to one, decided to attack the Confederate camp in order to allow him to make his retreat. He planned to attack in two columns, one on the flank and the other in front, and strike early on the morning of August 10th. So he started out on the rainy night of August 9th, 150 years ago today.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Seven New Ironclads

James B. Eads
Today the construction of seven new ironclads was approved by the United States government. Ironclads remained a relatively new force in naval technology. They had seen limited service in Europe, and had proven to be useful there. Both North and South were working on ironclads for the Virginia theater, the Monitor and the Virginia respectively, but these new ships were intended for service on the Mississippi river. The boats were later named the Cairo, Carondelet, Cincinnati, Louisville, Mound City, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. These boats were funded by James B. Eads, an American inventor. They were all of the same design, and were called Pook's Turtles after their builder and appearance. They were originally quoted at $90,000 per vessel, but the cost ended up being double that. Eads paid for them out of his own pocket, and they went into action before he was reimbursed by the federal government. These ships would be very important in the naval battles on the Mississippi river.

USS Cairo

USS Mound City

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lincoln Confiscates the Slaves of the South

Today, 150 years ago, Lincoln signed the First Confiscation Act into law. The Confiscation Act permitted the seizure of any property used to support what they saw as the insurrection of the South. The property that was the most controversial was slaves. This would be the first step that the government would make towards freeing the Southern slaves. Lincoln was hesitant to sign the act, fearing it would make the remaining border states leave the Union to protect the slaves. But he eventually signed it on this day interpreting it not as freeing the slaves, but transferring their ownership to the Federal government.