150 Years Ago This Week: Federal troops protect a U.S. Consul

January, 1864

On Saturday, Jan. 9, President Jefferson Davis warned his military commanders in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi of reports that Adm. David Farragut was preparing to attack Mobile and attempt to pass Fort Gaines and Fort Jackson at the mouth of Mobile Bay as he had done in New Orleans.

The only recorded military action on this blustery Saturday took place at Terman’s Ferry in Kentucky. Operating from Memphis, Tenn., to Meridian, Miss., Federal cavalry under Brig. Gen. William Sooy Smith began their raid on Jan. 10, with constant harassment from Confederate cavalry commanded by Maj. Gen. Nathan B. Forrest.

Off the South Atlantic coast, the U.S. Navy blockade of Southern ports remained very tight, with numerous blockade-runners being captured in increasing numbers by Union ships. There was a brief respite when the blockade ship U.S.S. Iron Age was destroyed off Lockwood’s Folly Inlet, S.C., after it went aground and was sunk by Confederate land artillery.

Two blockade-runners were captured off of Florida on Jan. 11, and two others were forced ashore and burned at Lockwood’s Folly Inlet. In Washington, Sen. John B. Henderson of Missouri proposed a Constitutional amendment to the U.S. Senate — the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery throughout the country.

At Matamoros, Mexico, on Jan. 12, Federal troops from Texas were sent in to protect and remove Louis Pierce, the U.S. Consul to Mexico, and his staff during a two-day fight between warring Mexican factions. The next day, writing from Richmond, President Jefferson Davis wrote to Gen. Joseph E. Johnston at Dalton, Ga., that for the Army of Tennessee to fall back would be so detrimental, both militarily and politically, “that I trust that you will not deem it necessary to adopt such a measure.”

In Washington, President Lincoln wired Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks in New Orleans to “proceed with all possible dispatch in constituting a free state government for Louisiana.” The president also urged Maj. Gen. Quincy Gillmore to cooperate in reconstructing a loyal government in Florida.

Watching the state of affairs in the West, President Davis told Gen. Johnston in Georgia on Jan. 14, that, if necessary, troops should be sent to Mobile or northern Mississippi; he asked Gen. Johnston to advise him of the proper course. The president was beginning to consider the strategy needed for the coming year’s struggle.

There was fighting on this day at Ragland Mills in Bath County, Ky.; near Collierville, Tenn.; at Ely’s Ford on the Rapidan River in Culpeper County; and at Monticello, Ark. Union scouts operated against Confederate troops in and around Baldwin’s Ferry on the Big Black River in Mississippi.

In an effort to encourage Confederate spirits and gird the population for the continuing struggle, many Southern newspapers in January published words of encouragement. In Washington on Jan. 15, President Lincoln began focusing his attention on reconstructing more in individual Southern states. There was a skirmish on this day between opposing forces at Petersburg, W.Va.

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.