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This Week in the Civil War

This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Aug. 12: Fighting in Missouri, arming the armies.

Fighting in the wide-ranging Civil War erupted in the heartland on Aug. 11, 1862, when Confederate forces attacked Independence, Missouri. The Confederate fighters surprised and scattered a force of Union troops garrisoned at Independence. But ultimately, the Union forces that hadn't been killed or immediately captured were forced to surrender. It marked a morale-boosting victory for the secessionist government based in Richmond, Va. The fighting continued days later when a Confederate force of about 3,000 men attacked more Union pickets it encountered in the state on Aug. 15, 1862. Charges and countercharges ensued as the fighting raged for hours in what was also considered a Confederate victory. However, the Confederate force was obliged to withdraw from the area when a larger Union force began advancing toward its position. More fighting would follow in the weeks and months ahead in the states clustered around the Mississippi River and other inland waterways deemed vital to transport and trade. Also this month 150 year ago in the war, the armies were still feverishly arming and supplying their troops with all manner of goods and materiel for what is shaping up as a drawn-out fight. The War Department, in an order published in Northern newspapers, called for rush bids from leather workers to be received no later than 5 p.m. on Aug. 26, 1862, for thousands of much-needed sets of harnesses, saddles and other cavalry equipment to be rushed to several armories around federal territory. "Bidders will state explicitly in their proposals the time, quantity and place of each delivery," the order stated, adding the bidders should send proposals to the War Department in Washington, D.C., clearly labeled as "Proposals, for Horse Equipments."

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This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Aug. 19: Confederates on the move.

This week 150 years ago in the war, Confederate fighters are on the move, set to open an offensive in Kentucky that would trigger fighting in the border state in late August 1862. The state is seen as crucial territory to both sides. Confederate Gen. E. Kirby Smith puts his troops on the road on Aug. 14, 1862, and within days that tramping army is moving well into Kentucky. All told, his roughly 6,000 men present a formidable fighting force. The troops advancing on the road to Richmond, Ky., would not engage Union rivals in combat until Aug. 29, 1862, in the first of their clashes in the region. Meanwhile, every sign suggests this war will be protracted, deadly and grim. Now the once popular move of signing up to fight is wearing thin in some cities and mandatory calls for duty are being resisted by some. The Associated Press reports a large number of people claiming "protection of the British flag" thronged the British consul's office in St. Louis one summer day seeking to exempt themselves from government-ordered militia duty. "Several affrays and struggles occurred between the disturbers and police," AP reported, adding critics complained of those who sought to "sneak from duty by enrolling themselves as subjects of Great Britain." AP notes that several arrests were made. Elsewhere, reports note that a Union army that waged an enormous but ultimately failed offensive to seize Richmond, Va., capital of the Confederacy, has fully withdrawn by Aug. 16 from Tidewater areas to the east. The report said several hundred of the last troops had completed the withdrawal on ships and boats in recent days and "all is quiet." The failure of the Union to capture Richmond and end the war quickly has quashed morale in the North while notably boosting spirits in the South.

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This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Aug. 26: Second Battle of Bull Run or Manassas, Va.

Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson orders his forces to attack the Union army on the Warrenton Turnpike in Northern Virginia on Aug. 28, 1862, opening the Second Battle of Bull Run, or Manassas. Furious fighting rages for hours at the Brawner Farm, not far from the site of the First Battle of Manassas or Bull Run. Union Maj. Gen. John Pope is certain he has trapped Jackson and sends a large federal force to attack Confederates on the farm, set on a ridge. The opening day of battle reaches a thundering crescendo in a 90-minute firefight between rival infantry lines set about 80 yards apart. Sunset brings a pause as the first day's fighting abates. Then, on Aug. 29, 1862, Pope initiates a series of assaults against Jackson's lines along an unfinished railroad route. Heavy casualties arise as the attacks are rebuffed on the second day of fighting. On the third day, Aug. 30, Pope renews his attacks, apparently unaware that the Confederates have been heavily reinforced. Confederate artillery shreds yet another Union assault and a large fighting force of Confederates totaling 28,000 fiercely counterattack. The Confederate onslaught smashes one of the Union flanks and the federal army is driven back. Pope's army, despite an effective rearguard action, is forced to retreat to Centreville as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee scores a decisive victory. In July 1861, the rival armies battled for the first time in the countryside overlooking Bull Run and a Union defeat made clear the war would be long and bloody. Now the Confederate triumph at Second Bull Run shows Lee at the height of his powers. And when the battle is over, casualties on the Union side approach 14,000 while the Confederates report more than 8,000 killed, missing or wounded.

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This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Sept. 2: Robert E. Lee on the move.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, victorious at the Second Battle of Bull Run, or Manassas, Va., begins to send his Army of Northern Virginia northward toward Maryland in the first week of September 1862. His bold plan: to strike a heavy blow directly at the North even as the federal government is reeling from defeat at Bull Run and the failed attempt earlier in 1862 by the Union to capture Richmond, Va., seat of the Confederacy. The Confederate forces number about 70,000 overall but are ragtag, often hungry and in ill-fitting uniforms. Moving from Leesburg, Va., they are intent on entering Maryland in the shadow of its western mountains. On Sept. 5, 1862, the first advance forces splash across the Potomac River into Maryland. Just ahead is one of the most fearsome appointments of the war: Antietam. The battle of Antietam in Maryland, in mid-September, will constitute the bloodiest single day of combat on American soil. Lee's intent is to bring the war to the North with his incursion into Union-held Maryland, a slave-holding border state pocked by divided sympathies. The rebel incursion prompts a massive federal force to respond to the threat. A Sept. 8, 1862, newspaper dispatch reports from Rockville, Md. — outside Washington — that "To-day matters here are assuming a more warlike appearance." It reported that Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan himself had been seen backed by a daunting force of cavalry, artillery and infantry moving into Maryland "in great numbers, and they are still coming." The report added: "McClellan's presence leads many to suppose he is to assume offensive action." On Sept. 17, 1862, the two opposing armies will clash ferociously at Antietam at a cost of more than 23,000 dead, wounded or missing — one of the great battles of the war.

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