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The Civil War Month by Month: Aug 1864

CW - 150

Civil War 150th anniversary

The Civil War 150th Anniversary

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

August 1864

This Month's Events

  • 4 August. In the North Carolina election for governor, Zebulon Vance defeats William Woods Holden, the "peace" candidate by a huge margin.

  • 5 August. As Union ships enter Mobile Bay, Admiral David Glasgow Farragut on board the USS Hartford can not see what is happening because of the thick smoke so he climbs the rigging with his telescope. Worried about his commander's safety, the captain sends a man up to tie Farragut to the rigging. As the battle continues, Farragut, warned of dangerous mines [then called torpedoes] ahead, cries, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." The Union fleet makes it through the minefield and past 2 forts to defeat the Confederate fleet.

  • 5 August. Abraham Lincoln is the Republican candidate for the upcoming presidential election. Today General George B. McClellan becomes the Democratic candidate. His party's platform criticizes the way Lincoln is running the war. Lincoln has already expressed his displeasure with the way McClellan, when commanding general, ran the war. See January 1862.

  • 18-21 August The Weldon Railroad, running from Wilmington to Weldon, North Carolina where it connects with lines to Petersburg and Portsmouth, Virginia, is a crucial focus in the struggle for Petersburg. Back in June the Confederate forces, in the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road, had gained control of the line, but now, in the Battle of Globe Tavern, Union attacks force the Confederates away from the line and destroy miles of track. Confederate supplies will have to make a 30 mile trip by wagon around the new Union positions. (North Carolina trivia: When completed in 1840, this railroad was the longest one in the world at 161.5 miles.)

  • 29 August. Today the Democratic Convention is opening in Chicago. Captain Thomas Hines, Confederate secret agent, is trying to organize an armed uprising of Southern sympathizers and "Copperheads". But his band of plotters includes a traitor. For what happened, see Confederate Agent [right.]

  • This month William James Hoke of Lincolnton is appointed commander at Charlotte; he will hold this post until the war ends. He is also assigned as adjutant general and inspector general of reserves.

This Month's Fiction

Adult Fiction

Clear For Action!, by Noel B. Gerson, pub. 1970. A novel based on the life and career of David Farragut, who was the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and full admiral of the Navy. He entered the Navy as a midshipman in December 1810. During the War of 1812, when only 12 years old, he was given command of a prize ship taken by USS Essex and brought her safely to port. When the Civil War started, he was one of the country's most experienced seamen and became an icon of popular culture at the Battle of Mobile.

Only Call Us Faithful : a novel of the Union underground, by Marie Jakober, pub. 2002. Richmond, Virginia. The capital of the Confederacy. Here lived one of the greatest threats to the Confederate war efforts. In an unremarkable house on Church Street, Elizabeth Van Lew, a spinster thought to be unconventional, was the center of the Union Army's underground spy network. For the duration of the Civil War, she worked with innumerable agents throughout the city - even in Jefferson Davis's own house!- keeping in constant communication with the Union military command. This is her story. Told by her ghost in a narrative that captures with utter poignancy the contradictions of the Southern ideal and the heartbreak of civil war, this is a remarkable story of courage and conviction, the untold tale of thousands of Southerners who during the Civil War were United Stales patriots in enemy territory. Though the Confederate leadership in Richmond thought her annoying and inconvenient, they never caught her passing secret information. To the very end she was invisible, a lady alone, fighting a shadow war.

Young Adult Fiction:

An Island Far from Home, by John Donahue, pub. 1995. A thought-provoking Civil War story involving a Yankee boy and a 14-year-old Confederate soldier. Joshua Loring, 12, lives in Massachusetts and is adjusting to the death of his father, who was a doctor in the Union army. His uncle, Major Robert Pennington, is in charge of POWs on nearby George's Island. The man tells his nephew about a prisoner who is quite young, scared, and alone, and asks that he write to him. Joshua is appalled at the thought of writing to the enemy, and yet at the same time he is intrigued by the idea of learning about a Confederate soldier close to his age, and he decides to write one letter. But one letter leads to another, and their pen-pal relationship grows to a respectful friendship. Donahue has masterfully drawn the young characters; through their correspondence, they slowly reveal personal characteristics that contradict their stereotypical views of one another. In an exciting, climactic ending, and under dangerous circumstances, the boys finally meet. A page-turner full of emotional turmoil that's wonderful for discussion groups and extremely accessible to reluctant historical fiction readers. Gr 4-7.

Children's Fiction:

This Month's Non-Fiction

Adult Nonfiction

Confederate Agent, by James D. Horan, pub. 1954, 326 p., call #: 973.786 H. A little known piece of history is told here in well-researched detail. The Confederacy hoped to defeat the Union off as well as on the battlefield and Captain Thomas Hines and his co-conspirators planned everything from armed rebellion, rescue of prisoners, to undermining currency and more -- all to take the Midwest for the rebels.

Children's Nonfiction

Zeb Vance: leader in war and peace, by Richard Cooper, pub. 1985, 48 p., call #: jB Vance NC. This short biography covers Vance's entire life with only a portion devoted to the Civil War. One chapter is on the Tom Dula ("Tom Dooley") case. A glossary and the music and lyrics of the song "Tom Dooley" are included.

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