Sunday, April 13, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Sunday, April 13, 1862

A Good Day’s Work

Having regained his self-confidence in the battle of Shiloh, Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman spends the day making mischief in the enemy’s land. Escorted by the gunboats Tyler and Lexington, Sherman, 100 horsemen of the 4th Illinois cavalry and a brigade of infantrymen use two steamboats to sail from Pittsburg Landing and up the Tennessee River, through northeastern Mississippi, and a few miles into northwest Alabama.

Disembarking at Chickasaw Landing, Alabama—about 15 miles from Pittsburg Landing, the cavalry chases some Confederate pickets, who burn one of their own bridges behind them. Next, the Union cavalry destroys 500 feet of railroad trestle over Bear Creek, tears down a half-mile of telegraph wire (throwing it into the river), and wrecks some railroad track, bending rails by heating them on bonfires of railroad ties. This cuts an important line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, said to be the main connection between the eastern and western Confederacy.

Blocked by shoals from proceeding further and doing still more damage, Sherman’s expedition returns to Pittsburg Landing and the congratulations of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, who now personally commands all troops in the area.

“Halleck was delighted,” Sherman will report to Ellen.

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: Under pressure from Union troops, Confederate forces are fleeing New Mexico. In Alabama, Brig. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel, the “astronomer-soldier” from Ohio, occupies Decatur. In the East, McClellan’s Army of the Potomac is advancing up the Virginia Peninsula, the Confederate capital of Richmond the objective. Almost everywhere one looks, the Confederacy is in trouble.

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—3 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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