Saturday, December 1, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Sunday, Dec. 1, 1861

“A Sunday Excursion”

From Cairo, Illinois, Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant reports that three Confederate gunboats “made a Sunday excursion to see us this evening.” The Rebel warships came chugging up the Mississippi, but got no further than the Union outpost of Fort Holt. Fort Holt, on the Kentucky shore, is the southernmost position in Grant’s command.

When the Rebels came into range, the fort blasted away with its biggest gun, but, because of a problem with the ammunition, did no more than punch holes in the water. The gunboats’ smaller artillery could not reach the fort, either, and soon the Confederates reversed course, heading back to Columbus, Kentucky.

The Union gunboat Lexington (pictured above), one of the Navy vessels assigned to Grant’s command, went after them to make sure they did not return. Lexington is a so-called “timberclad,” a sidewheeler converted, from civilian use, at the Cincinnati shipyards. Heavy oak timbers, instead of metal, armor the vessel.. Though somewhat of a makeshift warship, Lexington will play an important role in the Union war effort.

At about this time, in winter quarters with the 23rd Ohio in Fayetteville, western Virginia, Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes is reading some lectures on “The Military Science and Art” by Henry W. Halleck (“Old Brains”). Hayes is moved to the sarcasm typical of volunteer citizen-soldiers irritated by the arrogance of some professional soldiers. “West Point [is] good enough, if it did not give us so much of the effete,” he grumbles to his diary.

>>> As complaining, in and out of government, increases about Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s failure to take the Army of the Potomac in search of action, President Abraham Lincoln sends him a pointed memorandum: “If it were determined to make a forward motion of the Army of the Potomac, without awaiting further increase of member, or better drill & discipline, how long would it require to actually get in motion?”

If he only knew how long it will be….

Your suggestions, comments, and questions are always welcome. Address the author:

For more information about the author’s book, go to

No comments: