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The Civil War Month by Month: Sep 1861

CW - 150

Civil War 150th anniversary

The Civil War 150th Anniversary

Interesting facts, links, and suggested books for each month of the Civil War.

September 1861

This Month's Events

  • 3 September. The State of Kentucky has tried to remain "neutral": -- almost as if it is a separate country -- but to prevent Union forces from occupying various strong points, Confederate General Leonidas K. Polk sends his men in as a pre-emptive move. However, this so annoys Kentucky that while officially "neutral", the bulk of the state's men and resources go to the Union.
    A letter published in the September 4th issue of the Richmond, Virginia Dispatch comments forcibly on this situation. "Gallatin, Tenn., Aug. 26, 1861.... We are not a little annoyed by the course pursued and likely to be continued by Kentucky. We desire peace with her, and though we do not so well like her neutrality, believing that she should be with us, adding another star to our Confederacy, we could be reconciled to it if she would in reality preserve neutrality. Instead of which, she only cries neutrality, whilst Lincoln & Co. are sending in arms, money (if any he can get) and men to aid her disloyal sons to deprive the rest of all power, and finally, in a fight which they must soon have among themselves, to subjugate and turn Kentucky over to the usurper. Kentucky is in a woeful fix - divided into two parties. Hard to tell which has the majority. Neither will give up or yield. Therefore, we anticipate a Kilkenny cat fight among them."

  • 11 September. A new company, the "Shady Grove Rangers" (Co. E, 34th Regiment North Carolina Infantry) is raised in Lincoln County. John F. Hill is the first captain.

  • 14 September. At Pensacola, Florida, a detachment of the crew of the USS Colorado attacks the Confederate Navy yard there and burns the steamer Judah. This is regarded as the first naval battle in the war.

  • 17 September. Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Attorney General, and a man with no military experience, becomes Confederate Secretary of War. He will become embroiled in difficulties with a number of generals and be blamed for the loss of Roanoke Island off North Carolina in the next year. His Jewish ancestry makes him a target for anti-Semitism.

  • This month following the First Battle of Bull Run, there is a hiatus in the conflict. McClellan's reports read "All quiet along the Potomac tonight." Noticing that this report was followed by a report on the death of a picket, poet "E. B." writes the poem first published as "The Picket-Guard" in Harper's Weekly. As the poem becomes popular, many people claim authorship. Finally Harper's reveals that the author is a woman, Ethel Lynn Beers.
    The poem begins: All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight by Ethel Lynn Beers--image source--Wikipedia

    • "All quiet along the Potomac," they say,
    • "Except now and then a stray picket

    • Is shot, as he walks on his beat, to and fro,
    • By a rifleman hid in the thicket.

    • 'Tis nothing-a private or two, now and then,
    • Will not count in the news of the battle.

    In 1863 the poem was set to music by John Hill Hewitt, then a Confederate soldier. It was a hit, going through 5 printings. In her journal entry for March 18, 1863, Ellie Andrews of Statesville, North Carolina mentions singing it at a party along with "Rock Me to Sleep, Mother", describing them both as songs just out. (If you're curious, versions of both songs can be found on YouTube.)


This Month's Fiction

Adult Fiction

Children's Fiction

This Month's Non-Fiction

Adult Nonfiction

Ellie's book : the journal kept by Ellie M. Andrews from January 1862 through May 1865, transcribed and annotated by Ann Campbell MacBryde, pub. 1984, 147 p., call #: 973.782 A NC. A Pennsylvania girl who married a Southerner, Ellie spent much of the war in Statesville, North Carolina where she waited and worried about her Confederate officer husband, a widespread network of local kin and neighbors, and her family in the North. In common with most other diarists of the time, she discusses rising prices and shortages of such items as cloth to make a dress, despite her family's more upper class status. The book has a detailed genealogical preface, but the footnoted journal can be read alone.

Children's Nonfiction

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