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Interesting facts, links, and suggested books for each month of the Civil War.
This Month's Events
4 April. Yorktown, Virginia is besieged by Federal forces. The town's remaining Revolutionary defense lines from Washington's attack on the British army in 1783 are now replaced with new fortifications.
6 April. At Shiloh, Tennessee Confederate troops attack General Grant's Union troops. With 100,000 troops involved, this is the largest battle in the Western hemisphere up to this time. The battle continues into the next day and the Confederacy's initial advantage is lost when Union reinforcements arrive during the night. Losses are so heavy that when the Confederates retreat, they are not pursued. Confederate General Albert S. Johnston is one of the fallen. Ironically the name Shiloh means "tranquil".
Poet Herman Melville wrote a "Requiem" for the dead:
...The church so lone, the log-built one, That echoed to many a parting groan And natural prayer Of dying foemen mingled there-- Foemen at morn, but friends at eve-- Fame or country least their care: (What like a bullet can undeceive!) But now they lie low, While over them the swallows skim, And all is hushed at Shiloh.
Among the soldiers who do survive the battle is Henry Morton Stanley of the 6th Arkansas (Confederate). Eventually he will serve on both sides. After the war he becomes a world famous explorer, the man who said "Dr. Livingston, I presume?", and is knighted by Queen Victoria.
10-11 April. Union forces begin bombardment of Fort Pulaski which guards access to Savannah, Georgia. Using new rifled cannons, they breach the walls within 2 days. This advance in artillery ends the era of huge coastal forts; no more will be built.
12 April. The Salisbury, North Carolina newspaper for this date records the arrest of a man named C. G. Bell, suspected of being a spy, "...a Lincoln emissary sent out here to burn railroad bridges or seek information for the enemy". The arrival of men chasing Bell for stealing horses strengthens this conviction despite Bell's pleads that he is a "good Southern man" even though he is a thief. Warns the paper, "No doubt their [sic] are many such characters lurking in the South. Let everybody be on the lookout."
12 April. The 49th Regiment North Carolina Troops is organized at Raleigh with Stephen Dodson Ramseur as colonel. It includes men from several counties including Gaston and Lincoln: Co. H, Gaston Rangers, and Co. K, Pleasant Home Guards.
12 April. Twenty Union soldiers led by James J. Andrews steal a locomotive, the General at Big Shanty, Georgia. Their objective is to destroy bridges on the railroad connecting Chattanooga and Atlanta. The wild chase that follows will, generations later, be the subject of a famous movie by Buster Keaton.
16 April. The Confederacy passes a Conscription Act drafting men between the ages of 16 and 35 and extending the enlistments of any men already in the army to 3 years.
18-28 April. Admiral David Farragut and the Union Navy fight their way up the Mississippi to New Orleans. Since the city is so low, the ships actually end up above the levees with their guns pointing down into New Orleans. A break in the levees would flood the city. Despite this, when Admiral Farragut sends a representative to accept the city's surrender, he is met with defiance. Rather than attacking the city, the naval force continues upriver, destroys the forts on that side of the city, and then returns on the 29th. [See next month.]
26 April. After an almost month-long siege, the Union captures Fort Macon, overlooking the channel to Beaufort.
During this month in one of the more improbable episodes in the war, 3 young men go to Richmond to kidnap Jefferson Davis. They don't suceed, but they have some exciting adventures. [See right.]
This fictional re-creation of the battle of Shiloh in April 1862 fulfills the standard set by his monumental history, conveying both the bloody choreography of two armies and the movements of the combatants' hearts and minds.
The Shiloh Sisters by Michael Kilian
Publication Date: 2005-01-04
In his fifth exciting adventure through the battlefields of the Civil War, Kilian's bumbling, myopic spy, Harrison Raines, comes to the aid of Ulysses S. Grant in the aftermath of the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. Grant has given a pass to a federal congressman's wife, who insists on crossing into Rebel territory to meet with her twin sister. Later, as Union forces march south, both sisters turn up inside a single coffin, murdered.
From the poignant words of a Civil War ballad, Stolz has fashioned a short yet moving tale of twin boys who grow up on a Virginia plantation and, as young men, choose opposing sides in the war. Though the plot is simple and the characters are uncomplicated, both are realistic and poignantly drawn. Fine-quality, pen-and-ink artwork appears throughout. A good choice for introducing historical fiction. Gr. 4-7.
Fourteen-year-old Chris, bitterly hating the Yankees for invading his Tennessee mountain home, learns a difficult lesson about the waste of war and the meaning of tolerance and courage when he reports the approach of a Yankee supply troop to the Confederates, only to learn that his brother is probably part of that troop.
This Month's Non-Fiction
Shiloh-In Hell Before Night by James L. McDonough
Publication Date: 1977-12-01
A fine job of research, using primary sources and portraying what it was like to be at this bloody encounter.
What defines a "watershed event," a moment in history that changes the world forever? Hanson tackles this intriguing question in this book, an eye-opening look at three great military encounters: Okinawa, Shiloh, and Delium, an obscure battle of the Peloponnesian War. A master of military detail, Hanson describes the strategies and tactics, and the terrible cost in human life, of each battle. These vivid accounts set the stage for a wider inquiry into the long-term, often unintended, consequences of war.
Two days after the Union capture of Fort Pulaski, a black family including 14 year old Susie fled from slavery to the protection of the Union troops. This simple memoir, originally published in 1902, records her life as a teenager in the camp of the 1st South Carolina volunteers, a black regiment, working as a laundress, nurse, and teacher.
The plot to ride into Richmond and capture Jefferson Davis was concocted by three brash adventurers, who, using pseudonyms from The Three Musketeers, were soon involved in escapades worthy of Dumas's trio. This stunning story provides a fresh perspective on Richmond during the Civil War and a personal account of a scheme devised to bring an early end to the war.
Attorney Bonds takes one of the best-remembered events of the US Civil War, marked by audacious harebrained planning perhaps doomed to failure, plain bad luck, botched executions, and miraculous escapes, finally capped by the awarding of the first Medals of Honor given for military service, and gives it authoritative, balanced historical treatment. The author produces a highly readable study of a highly suspenseful adventure interpreted through the critical eye of a historian.
William Tecumseh Sherman by Nancy Whitelaw
Publication Date: 1996-01-01
At Shiloh, William Tecumseh Sherman, until then thought of as a failure and even insane, "saved the fortune of the day on the 6th and contributed largely to the glorious victory on the 7th." Using many contemporary quotations and photographs, Whitelaw presents both the personal and the military sides of the man who was loved and hated with equal intensity. Gr. 5-8.