After war erupted between the states in 1861, it lasted four long — and for tens of thousands of people — heartbreaking years. Given the extensive scholarship directed toward this conflict over the past century and a half, it can be said with assurance that every event that took place during the war years has received due attention, both officially and unofficially.
Officially, from 1880 to 1901, the U.S. government published 128 volumes that documented Union and Confederate army operations, and from 1894 to 1922 issued some 30 volumes recording Civil War naval operations. Unofficially, there are some 70,000 books in print devoted to the Civil War, and innumerable articles for journals and magazines.
To summarize this massive outpouring, in 1971, E.B. Long offered to the public “The Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861-1865.” This thousand-page tome is intended as a chronology of principal happenings, while integrating them with brevity and clarity.
On any particular date, various military and political events were occurring in a wide range of geographic locations. For example, listed under today’s date for each year of the war are the following summations, which depict on an annual basis the progression of the conflict:
“September 1, 1861 — Minor skirmishing occupied the day at Blue Creek, Boone Court House and Burlington, western Va., as well as at Bennights’ Mills and in Jefferson County, Mo., and near Fort Scott, Ks. Brig. Gen. U.S. grant assumed command in southeastern Missouri at Cape Girardeau. … Almost daily there were actions on the waters framing the Confederacy.”
In this paragraph, Long cited actions in Virginia, Missouri, Kansas, as well as the Mississippi River, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico as the war spread throughout the entire country.
“September 1, 1862 — The last scene of fighting in the Second Battle of Bull Run or Manassas was at Chantilly or Ox Hill, Va. [Robert E.] Lee, maintaining his offensive, sent [Stonewall] Jackson’s corps north around the Union right. He was met by Federals under [Gens.] I.I. Stevens and Phil Kearny … [both of whom] were killed. … There was skirmishing at Putnam, Neosho, and Spring River, Mo. … For the Confederates, Maj. Gen. J. P. McCown assumed command of the Department of East Tennessee. … The Federal Navy stopped the “spirit ration” of the sailors. ... President Davis was having difficulty with South Carolina authorities over the enforcement of conscription. President Lincoln, [Gens.] McClellan and Halleck conferred about the military situation in Virginia.”
Again, Long covered a broad spectrum of military and political events in the East, West and South as all regions felt the impact of these confrontations. He also included a human-interest item about the U.S. Navy’s alcohol restrictions.
“September 1, 1863 — Fort Smith … Arkansas, fell to Union forces. … In Charleston Harbor mortar fire smote Battery Wagner on Morris Island. … [Maj. Gen. William] Rosecrans Federal Army of the Cumberland was … moving on Chattanooga and [Lt. Gen. Braxton] Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee. … Virginia saw only cavalry operations and skirmishing at Corbin’s Cross Roads. … President Davis … [said] reinforcements and arms were being sent to Chattanooga and Bragg’s threatened army.”
Long focused on operations both east and west of the Mississippi River, and emphasized the deteriorating Rebel situation in Chattanooga — a reflection that the war was not going well for the South.
“September 1, 1864 — Explosions and fires broke out at night around Atlanta’s railroad depot and yards. The [Rebels] had fled the city. [Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell] Hood, beset by [Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh] Sherman’s encircling force … evacuated. … Hood had failed in his major task, to fight and hold Atlanta. [Maj. Gen. Philip] Sheridan’s Union army … began to threaten Winchester, Va. once more.”
In this last Sept. 1 summation before the war’s end, Long highlighted a key event, as Atlanta fell to Union forces. This led to the reelection of President Abraham Lincoln for a second term in November 1864. At the same time, Sheridan’s forces brought devastation to the Shenandoah Valley.
Following Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, simultaneously as the war finally ended, Vice-President Andrew Johnson took the oath of office as president. Perhaps as a gesture of reconciliation with the conquered Confederacy, Johnson renewed trade with the Southern states on today’s date, Sept. 1, the day his proclamation took effect in 1865.
Tom Ryan is the author of the multiple award-winning “Spies, Scouts & Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign.” Signed copies are available at Bethany Beach Books. His latest book, “Eleven Fateful Days in July 1863: Meade Tracks Lee’s Escape after Gettysburg,” is due out in 2018. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.tomryan-civilwar.com.