This Week in the American Civil War – February 19-25, 1862

Courtesy of the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

Major Highlights for the week

Wednesday February 19, 1862

Federal forces of Brigadier General Charles F. Smith from Grant’s command occupied Clarksville, Tenn. While Grant was looking toward Nashville there was an inter-army squabble brewing. Grant’s men were accused of entering the territory of Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell, who also was advancing slowly south toward Nashville from the Bowling Green, Ky., area. A skirmish at West Plains, Mo., marked the day. The Confederate Congress counted the electoral votes and ordered the release of two thousand Federal prisoners of war.

Thursday February 20, 1862

In late afternoon at the White House, William Wallace “Willie” Lincoln passed away at the age of 12. A weeping President tried to console his distraught wife. At the same time, casualty lists from Fort Donelson were spread on bulletin boards in the North and South, announcing more personal tragedy for many families.

On the Mississippi, the Confederate bastion of Columbus, Ky., was evacuated upon orders from Richmond. Withdrawal into the middle South was a necessity for the Confederacy, and Kentucky was nearly devoid of organized Confederate troops. In North Carolina, there was an expedition by Federals in Currituck Sound. Tennessee Governor Isham Harris announced the removal of the capital from Nashville to Memphis. The Confederate army, reassembling at Nashville, was pulling back to Murfreesboro, southeast of the city, at command of General Albert Sidney Johnston.

Friday February 21, 1862

Up the valley of the Rio Grande in New Mexico Territory, some 2,600 Confederates of Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley toiled toward Fort Craig, held by Federals under Colonel Edward Canby. The engagement at Valverde resulted from a contest over a ford by which the Confederates intended to cut off the fort on the west side of the Rio Grande. After brisk fighting, the Federals withdrew to the fort, and the victorious Confederate column moved on north towards Santa Fe, bypassing Fort Craig. Canby’s Federals had about 3,810 men and lost 68 killed, 160 wounded, and 35 missing. The Confederates lost 31 killed, 154 wounded, and 1 missing.

In Tangier, Morocco, U.S. consul James De Long seized two officers of the Confederate cruiser C.S.S. Sumpter, John Smith and T. T. Tunstall. After a long furor, the pair was released. In New York City, convicted slave trader Nathaniel Gordon was hanged.

Saturday February 22, 1862

In the pouring rain in the yard of the Confederate Capitol at Richmond, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the President of the Confederate States of America.

Meanwhile, there was a brief skirmish at Arkansas Bay, Texas. In Virginia, a Federal expedition operated between Vienna and Flint Hill. There was a skirmish at Independence, Mo. Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell led his Federals from Bowling Green, Ky. towards Nashville.

President Abraham Lincoln, mourning the death of one son and concerned over the health of another, Tad, did not attend the Washington’s Birthday observances.

Sunday February 23, 1862

Citizens and soldiers alike were evacuating Nashville, Tenn., more rapidly than before, as Federal soldiers and gunboats began to draw nearer. President Lincoln named Andrew Johnson as the military governor of Tennessee, to be confirmed March 4 by the U.S. Senate. In other command changes, the Department of the Gulf was constituted under command of Major General Benjamin F. Butler. Brigadier General John Pope assumed command of the Army of the Mississippi at Commerce, Mo.

Federal troops occupied Fayetteville, Ark., in the northwestern part of the state, and there was fighting around Pea Ridge Prairie, Mo., to the north. Federals carried out several days of reconnaissance from Greenville to Little River, Mo., and on Bull River and Schooner Channel, S.C.

Monday February 24, 1862

Northern troops under Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell reached the north bank of the Cumberland River at Nashville as troop transports began arriving. Confederate Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry formed the Confederate rear guard, retreating to the southeast. Other Federal troops under Major General Nathaniel Banks occupied Harper’s Ferry, western Virginia, strategically situated at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. In Missouri, fighting occurred at Mingo Creek, near St. Francisville, at New Madrid, and in St. Clair and Henry counties. A small skirmish occurred at Lewis Chapel, near Pohick Church, Va. Funeral services were held in Washington for Willie Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln.

Tuesday February 25, 1862

Federal troops moved into Nashville in full force. It would be a major supply base for the Union during the remainder of the war. Confederate Major General E. Kirby Smith was assigned command in east Tennessee.

In Richmond, Confederate President Jefferson Davis sent a message to the Confederate Congress reviewing the war and calling for sterner measures. Davis thought the financial system was adequate and that the postal department was improving. Naval construction was proceeding despite limited resources, the need for more soldiers was being met and strenuous efforts were being made to reinforce armies in the West.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of February 19-25, 1862

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – In camp at Edward’s Ferry near Leesburg, Va.

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On the march from Mill Springs to Louisville, Ky.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – At Shepherdsville, Lebanon Junction and Belmont, Ky., guarding Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison duty at Fort Snelling, Minn., Fort Ridgely, Minn., and Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – On patrol duty at Fort Henry, Tenn.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On garrison duty at St. Louis, Mo.

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – Training at Colonel Hiram Berdan’s “Camp of Instruction”

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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