Tuesday, March 18, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Tuesday, March 18, 1862

“It will be a big lick”

At 3 o’clock this morning, in his headquarters overlooking the Tennessee River at Savannah, Tennessee, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant writes his beloved Julia, “When you hear of another great and important strike I can’t tell you, but it will be a big lick so far as numbers are concerned.

“I have no misgivings myself as to the result and you must not feel the slightest alarm.

“With one more great success I do not see how the rebellion is to be sustained.”

We shall see.

A few miles upriver, at Pittsburg Landing, Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, writes his wife, Ellen. He has less to say about what may be coming, but admits, “We may have fights at Purdy and Corinth.”

Most of his letter describes his failed strike, a few days earlier, at a Confederate railroad line. “The rain fell in torrents…and the Tennessee River rose 15 feet in one day,” he says.

Sherman goes on to describe the countryside as largely deserted by its residents. “In a circuit of many miles I find houses abandoned, the people having fled, because they are told we take everything we can lay our hands on, [including] all the pretty girls…I had an old man who really believed this, and was much assured when I said if he would stay at home & mind his own business I would not permit the soldiers to disturb him..

“On going to his house, his wife & children had fled to the woods as though we were savages—Our soldier do in spite of all efforts burn [fence] rails, steal geese, chickens, &c &c.”

Twenty-two miles from Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River, the Rebel railroad junction at Corinth (pictured above) begins receiving its first Confederate troops from Murfreesboro, part of a massive buildup to block further Union advances along the river.

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: Confederate President Jefferson Davis makes some changes in his Cabinet, most notably naming George W. Randolph of Virginia as secretary of war, succeeding Judah P. Benjamin, moved to secretary of state. However, the Confederacy will find a secretary of war to match the Union’s irascible but brilliant Edwin M. Stanton, a lawyer born and raised in Steubenville, Ohio.

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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