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The Civil War Month by Month: May 1862

CW - 150

Civil War 150th anniversary

The Civil War 150th Anniversary

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

May 1862

This Month's Events

  • 1 May. Union commander Benjamin Butler and 5,000 troops occupy New Orleans. There is no resistance. One side effect of the loss of New Orleans on the Confederate states -- sugar becomes almost impossible to obtain.

  • 1 May. Retreating through Virginia, W. H. Andrews of the 1st Georgia Regulars describes his unit's assignment. They are dealing with the bane of every army in history: mud. "The Regulars were detailed to support a battery of artillery, or in other words, to pull it out of the mud. What a night we had of it, the horses to their knees in mud, with the axles of the artillery scraping the top of the road, the soldiers tugging at the wheels, the drivers cursing and beating their broke-down stock. All contributed to make it a night long to be remembered."

  • 4 May. Moravian diarist, R. P. Leinbach, comments that his landlord won't take his Confederate money for his board.

  • 6 May. The Western Democrat in Charlotte, North Carolina reports, "The Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, and Lutheran churches had given their bells to the government. They were removed last week and broken up for shipment to Richmond, where a battery of guns will be immediately prepared for Captain Brem of this place." Brem's company of artillery had lost 4 of its 6 guns in March at the battle of New Bern.

  • 10 May. William Thomas writes to William Holden in Raleigh about his troops. "I am at present with the 1st and 2d companies of the "North Carolina Cherokee Battalion" stationed at this place [Strawberry Plains, Tennessee] to guard a Railroad bridge, which the tories [Unionists] around it are so anxious to destroy. ... So far, the Indian companies have set an example worthy of imitation by the whites, in sobriety, morality, and submission to the duties required of soldiers. They bid prove themselves better friends to the South and the Southern cause, in this our day of trial, than some persons who claim to be of pure white origin--who have no merit of their own, besides, except to stay at home, and speculate on the necessities of the families of the soldiers who are fighting the battles of their country." This indignation with "speculators" will be echoed by many others as the war goes on.

  • 14 May. While the officers of the Confederate steamer Planter are away, the pilot, 23 year-old Robert Smalls, and his fellow slaves seize the ship about 3:00 in the morning, sail out of Charleston Harbor, and take it to the Union Navy. Smalls even suceeds in hiding his wife and children and some other women nearby and picks them up as he leaves. The ship's cargo includes 4 large cannons. He also brings intelligence on the land side defenses of the city. Smalls will survive the war to become a South Carolina legislator and a U. S. Representative.

  • 23 May. At Front Royal, Virginia, Stonewall Jackson's army of 17,000 attacks and nearly destroys a detachment of about 1,000 Federal soldiers. Stonewall knew of their presence because of information conveyed by Belle Boyd, Confederate spy.

  • 24 May. A telegraph wire several miles long is run between the headquarters of General McClellan and his advance guard, the first time this has been done. This is one of the many technological innovations marking the Civil War.

  • 31 May - 1 June. The battle of Seven Pines, aka Fair Oaks, begins in Virginia as the Union Army of the Potomac under General McClellan tries to reach Richmond. Fighting each other to a standstill, both sides claim victory.

  • This month recruiters are looking for men to join the cavalry. A number of men from Gaston County sign up for the company that will be formally enlisted in Charlotte on July 14 as Company E, 4th Regiment, North Carolina Cavalry.

  • This month the Confederate Naval Yard opens at its new location in Charlotte, North Carolina (see March 1862). On land purchased from Captain John Wilkes (although he was never paid for it), the facilities include forges, a laboratory, and the largest steam hammer in the South. Employing about 1500 men, the yard makes engines, shells, torpedoes, etc. etc. One employee, Thomas Dwyer, invents a machine to make perfectly round cannonballs.

This Month's Fiction

Adult Fiction

Call Each River Jordan, by Parry Owen, pub. 2001, 321 p. Dispatched to the battle-scarred ridges of Tennessee by President Abraham Lincoln, Federal Agent Abel Jones endeavors to solve an exceedingly heinous crime steeped in racial hatred and teeming with biblical overtones. When Union troops discover the brutal massacre of 40 runaway slaves, General Grant worries that abolitionists, endangering the war effort at a particularly critical juncture, will politically exploit the slaughter. Commissioned as Grant's emissary, Jones seeks safe passage across enemy lines to confer with Confederate commanders equally worried that publication of the vile nature of the atrocities will weaken European support for their cause. Teaming up with an aristocratic Southern officer, Jones must cross both physical and emotional borders in order to comprehend the shockingly twisted logic that prompted the senseless bloodletting. In addition to expertly capturing the elegant cadence of Civil War-era dialogue, Parry has also authentically evoked the horror, confusion, and chaos that characterized the conflict between the states. Realistically detailed, bristling with intelligent suspense, and featuring a stoically introspective hero, this superb piece of period fiction will appeal to both Civil War buffs and fans of historical mysteries.

Children's Fiction

This Month's Non-Fiction

Adult Nonfiction

Children's Nonfiction

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