150 Years Ago in the Civil War

Fighting continued on several fronts as the event filled summer of 1864 moved into August.

The capture of the Confederate port at Mobile, Alabama had long been a Union objective, and in August of 1864, action was finally taken.  Three forts–Gaines, Morgan, and Powell–plus four gunboats including the iron clad CSS Tennessee guarded the bay. The Confederates also placed mines, called torpedoes at that time, in many locations in the bay.   On August 5th,  Farragut attacked with a combined Navy and Army expedition of 18 ships and 2400 troops.  Farragut’s fleet managed to get past the guns of Fort Morgan, although the ironclad USS Tecumseh struck a mine and sank.  The Union fleet captured or sank the ships in the Confederate fleet.  Federal forces then invested the forts using ground troops and naval gunfire.

Battle of Mobile Bay by Xanthus Smith

Fort Powell, smallest of the three, was bombarded by naval gunfire and it’s defenders abandoned at night on August 5th.  Fort Gaines surrendered on August 7th.  Fort Morgan held out until August 23rd before surrendering.  Although the city of Mobile would not be taken by the Federals until April of 1865, the capture of Mobile Bay ended its days as a Confederate port for blockade runners.  For more on the Battle of Mobile Bay, see my post here. Continue reading “Farragut Takes Mobile Bay; Sheridan Given Command in the Shenandoah; Sherman Closes in on Atlanta: August 1864” »

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Civil War soldiers on both sides would go to extraordinary lengths to save their regimental and national flags from capture by the enemy.  One Union officer who risked his life to save his regiment’s U.S. flag was 2nd Lieutenant Charles R. Tanner of the 1st Delaware Infantry.

Lt. Charles B. Tanner  1st Delaware Infantry

Lt. Charles B. Tanner 1st Delaware Infantry

At the Battle of Antietam, the 1st Delaware was brigaded with the 4th New York and 5th Maryland regiments in Brigadier General Max Weber’s brigade of Brigadier General William H. French’s division of the Union 2nd Corps.   French marched his division south across the William Roulette farm and toward a sunken road where Major General D.H. Hill’s Division was in a strong defensive position.  As the Federals emerged from a cornfield and crested a ridge, they were out in the open and exposed to Confederate fire.  The 1st Delaware’s colonel ordered a charge upon the sunken road (which would later be called Bloody Lane), and scores were cut down by the musket fire from the Alabama regiments of Brigadier General Robert E. Rodes’ Brigade. Among the casualties was the flag bearer of the 1st Delaware’s national flag, and the flag itself was on the ground where the flag bearer had been killed.

The 1st Delaware pulled back to the cornfield and took cover.  The men saw the colors lying on the ground between the lines, and were determined to get them back.  Here’s Lt. Tanner’s account of how he got them back: Continue reading “Lt. Charles R. Tanner of the 1st Delaware Infantry Saves the Flag at Antietam” »

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Philanthropist David Rubenstein has donated $12.35 million for the repair and refurbishing of Arlington House, the home of General Robert E. Lee and his family from 1831-61. The house in Arlington, Virginia, is  now the Robert E. Lee Memorial and part of the National Park Service.  The money will renovate and repair the building and grounds, fix damage from the 2011 Virginia earthquake, and restore each room in the house to the way it appeared in 1860.  The National Park Service is strapped for cash these days, so Mr. Rubenstein’s gift is most welcome.  He also contributed $7.5 million to help fix the Washington Monument after it was damaged in that 2011 earthquake.

Robert E. Lee was living at the house when he resigned his U.S. Army commission on April 20th, 1861.   He left for Richmond the same day, but his wife Mary stayed until May 15th.  She turned the house over to the Lee’s slaves, who were to take care of the property while the Lees were gone.  With its location on high ground overlooking Washington DC, the Union Army crossed the Potomac on May 24th, one day after Virginia voted to secede from the Union, and occupied the area around the house. After the Battle of Bull Run, the house itself was occupied and used as a military headquarters and officers’ residence.

Arlington House With Union Soldiers June 28th 1864 Continue reading “Arlington House, Pre War Home of Robert E. Lee, Receives $12.35 Million Donation for Repairs” »

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