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This Week in the Civil War

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

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 Union troops garrisoned at Independence. But ultimately, the Union forces that hadn't been killed or immediately captured were compelled to surrender. It marked a morale-boosting victory for the secessionist government 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 fighting raged for hours in what was also deemed a Confederate victory. However, the Confederates were obliged to withdraw when a larger Union force began advancing on them. 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 for an extended conflict. The War Department, in an order published in Northern newspapers, called for rush bids from leather workers to be received by 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 set out 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 put 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 presented 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 clashes in the region. Every sign suggests this war will be protracted, deadly and grim. Now the once popular move of voluntarily 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 noted 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 shaken the morale of Northerners 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.

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 around 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 crescendo in a 90-minute firefight between rival infantry lines spaced 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 bed. 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 heads northward.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, victorious at the Second Battle of Bull Run, or Manassas, Va., begins sending 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 a failed attempt earlier in 1862 to capture Richmond, Va., seat of the Confederacy. The Confederates number about 70,000 overall but are ragtag, often hungry and wearing 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 war to the North by rolling into Union-held Maryland, a slave-holding 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 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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This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Sept. 9: The Fight Before Antietam.

Confederate Robert E. Lee's Army of the Northern Virginia took its fight to Maryland 150 years ago this week in the Civil War. Lee's forces clashed with Union foes on Sept. 14, 1862, at the Battle of South Mountain, Md. Fighting here would be a mere prelude to the monstrous Battle of Antietam in three days' time. Lee's hope was to crush Northern war spirits by taking the fight to Union turf. Lee's troops briefly occupied Frederick, Md., but soon were chased off by the approaching Union forces of Major Gen. George B. McClellan. Because a copy of Lee's battle plan had accidentally fallen into Union hands, McClellan had advance word that Lee would send part of his fighting force to capture Harpers Ferry, inpresent day West Virginia, while leaving Maryland's South Mountain gaps lightly guarded. In fierce fighting at South Mountain, McClellan sought to crush the Army of Northern Virginia. But it was to no avail. Lee regrouped his far-flung divisions to fight another day. Only days ahead, the two foes would meeet at Antietam, turning point in the Civil War. Still, there was little inkling this week of the deathly battle that was near. The Associated Press reported on Sept. 13, 1862, that Union fighters who drove Confederates from Frederick after some skirmishing were cheered when they reached that Maryland city: "The entire city appeared overjoyed to see us again, and the people turned out en masse to welcome our troops ... flags were waved from house-tops and windows and the side walks were thronged with people, including a full representation of ladies." But AP also reported in the same dispatch that there were reports of a huge Confederate force numbering more than 100,000-strong still out and about in the countryside.

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