Tuesday, February 19, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Thursday, Feb. 20, 1862

Itching for battle

Generals Grant, McClernand, and Wallace spend the day visiting Clarksville, Tennessee, which General Smith’s division has just occupied on Grant's behalf. This widens the notch Union forces have carved in northwestern Tenessee with the Forts Henry and Donelson campaign.

Clarksville, McClernand wrote his wife, is a “beautiful village or town of 5 or 6000 inhabitants,” but almost completely deserted by its white residents. “We marched through the streets but met no welcome except from the negros,” the general wrote.

Clarksville is strategically located on the Cumberland River, part-way between Fort Donelson and Nashville, the Tennessee capital. Confederate forces have withdrawn from Nashville, so Foote’s gunboats and Grant’s infantry could easily capture the city—if Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, Grant’s superior, hadn’t forbidden it. Now Grant is forced to sit still and think about what he might do next.

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: The 48th Ohio, which had spent months waiting impatiently at Camp Chase while it slowly filled its ranks, has finally been ordered into the war zone and today arrives in Paducah, Kentucky. The 48th had traveled from Cincinnati by steamboat, an overnight trip. The regiment will remain in Paducah for more than two weeks, most of the time training without weapons—a source of great dissatisfaction for the men. They want to see action. After the war, a regimental historian will write, “The general opinion of the rank and file seemed to be, ‘The war will be over before we can get into it.’ Alas! How little any of us dreamed of what was to come.”

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—less than 3½ years from now!—will be the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, April 12 was the day Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

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