150 Years Ago This Week: Why are your horses fatigued?

October 1862

Out on the high seas, on Saturday, Oct. 18, the worst of a mid-October hurricane was over, the sea was running fearfully high and the crew of the CSS Alabama went about repairing storm damage. Capt. Raphael Semmes had saved the Confederate raider the day prior when his keen eyes saw the danger and cut the staysail halyards, relieving pressure as the Alabama came again up into the wind. If not heading into the wind, the ship would have heeled over and sank. The hurricane’s force was estimated at 40 miles across. For several days the Alabama had to cope with hurricane conditions, and some of her small boats, yards and sails were damaged. Capt. Semmes noted in the log that he needed to capture another ship to allow him to make repairs and replace his boats.

In Kentucky, Confederate cavalry under Gen. John Hunt Morgan captured the Federal garrison at Lexington, entered the city and then moved off towards Versailles. Gen. Braxton Bragg’s retiring Confederate Army of Tennessee arrived in the area of Cumberland Gap on Oct. 19, with large supplies of grain and fairly little opposition by Federal troops.

The next day, in Washington, President Lincoln ordered Illinois politician and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand to proceed to Indiana, Illinois and Iowa to organize troops for an expedition against Vicksburg under Gen. McClernand’s command. This decision later conflicted with Maj. Gen. Ulysses Grant’s new command, and resulted in many charges and countercharges and friction between the two generals. President Lincoln also penned a memorandum showing the Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, still in western Maryland, had 231,997 officers and men, of which 144,662 were fit for active service.

On Oct. 21, Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to Maj. Gen. Theophilius Holmes in Missouri of tentative plans to have Southern armies consolidate and drive the Federal troops from Tennessee and Arkansas, and recapture Helena, Ark., Memphis and Nashville. Lincoln also called upon civil and military authorities in Tennessee to support elections for a Union state government, legislature and members of the U.S. Congress.

There was fighting on Oct. 22 in various areas of the Eastern and Western Theatres of War: Van Buren, Mo., Snickersville, Va., Yemassee, S.C. and Waverly, Tenn. At Fort Wayne, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), Union troops under Maj. Gen. James Blunt attacked Confederate troops under Col. Douglas Cooper. The Confederates put up stiff resistance for half an hour, but overwhelming Union troops forced the Southerners to retire from the field, leaving artillery and equipment behind. The Goose Creek Salt Works near Manchester, Ky., which had been supplying the Confederacy, were destroyed by Federal troops. On the high seas, with repairs made from the hurricane, CSS Alabama continued to raid and capture Federal ships, adding to its list of captures.

Largely due to the escape of Gen. Bragg’s Army of Tennessee on Oct. 24, Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell was removed by the U.S. War Department and replaced by Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, following the latter’s victories in Mississippi. Gen. Rosecrans was appointed to command the new Department of the Cumberland.

In Washington, President Lincoln was not above venting his anger at the commander of the Army of the Potomac for his inactivity in the east; he wired Gen. McClellan: “I have just read your dispatch about sore-tongued and fatigued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses in your army have done since the battle at Antietam that fatigue anything?” It was yet another example of how annoyed the President was with “Little Mac.”

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Arthur Candenquist
About Arthur Candenquist 193 Articles
A long-time historian, researcher, lecturer and author, Arthur Candenquist serves as secretary-treasurer of the Rappahannock County Sesquicentennial Committee. He can be reached at AC9725@cs.com.