This week in the war:
Sunday, March 2, 1862: Leonidas K. Polk, ordained bishop in the Episcopal Church and major general of the Confederate army, completed a most unpleasant assignment today when he completed the evacuation of Columbus, Kentucky. This marked the end of the “Kentucky Line” of defense, which Polk himself helped to create when he originally took his forces into the state without authorization. Polk’s new defensive line was established at Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River, and Fort Pillow just north of Memphis, Tennessee.
Monday, March 3, 1862: General Halleck (US) accused General Grant of “neglect of duty, inefficiency and drunkenness.” McClellan (US) gave Halleck permission to arrest Grant if he thought it was necessary. This argument was the result of Grant’s popularity in the North after the capture of Fort Donelson, which Halleck claimed the credit for coupled with Halleck’s lack of any real progress in Missouri. New Madrid, Missouri which had been the epicenter of the strongest earthquake ever recorded in North America (in 1811), now was blessed with the attention of Federal forces commanded by General John Pope (US).
Tuesday, March 4, 1862: General Robert E Lee (CSA) was appointed military advisor to Jefferson Davis. Halleck removed Grant from his command. Halleck was appointed commander of all the Union’s western armies – his reward for the victory at Fort Donelson. Today were complaints from governors along the Mississippi that they were not being sent enough guns. The Western governors had a very legitimate complaint of not receiving sufficient supplies or attention from Richmond.
Wednesday, March 5, 1862: Union General Nathaniel Banks moves his troops up the Shenandoah Valley toward Winchester and Confederate General 'Stonewall' Jackson. The first group of Union General C.F. Smith's forces reaches Savannah, Tennessee, northeast of Corinth, Mississippi. The buildup of Union forces increases rapidly. Despite Union General Halleck's urging, Union Flag Officer Foote declines to attack Island No. 10 in the Mississippi because his vessels are not sufficiently repaired. In Arkansas, Confederate General Earl Van Dorn joins forces with General Sterling Price, who had been driven out of Missouri by the superior forces of Union General Samuel R. Curtis. Expecting an imminent attack, Van Dorn positions his troops just past Fayetteville and Elm Springs, Arkansas. Confederate General Beauregard takes charge of defenses along the Mississippi valley. Confederate General Johnston begins an operation to prevent further entrenchment of Union forces around Savannah, Tennessee.
Thursday, March 6, 1862: In Arkansas, Confederate General Van Dorn engages Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis' troops, and later moves his men during the night to attack from the rear at Pea Ridge. President Lincoln, responding to suggestions from senators, requests the states' cooperation to devise ways to abolish slavery, indicating the availability of Federal funds for emancipation efforts in individual states. [US government would pay slave owners for their lost of slaves] The President believes the resolution will keep Northern slave states from joining the Confederacy. In Richmond, the Confederate Congress authorizes military officials to dispose of Confederate crops and property if Union troops advance farther into Virginia. The aim was to ensure that no cotton or tobacco fell into the hands of the North.
Friday, March 7, 1862: In Arkansas, Union General Curtis' troops are surprised from the rear by General Van Dorn's forces at Pea Ridge. Confederate Brigadier Generals Benjamin McCulloch and James McIntosh are killed during battle, creating confusion in the Confederate ranks. Union General Curtis concentrates his forces at nightfall and waits for General Van Dorn's attack on Saturday. Union General McClelland finally begins to move toward Confederate forces under General Johnston in Virginia. Johnston retreats ahead of McClellan. At Winchester, Virginia, Union General Nathaniel Banks' forces skirmish with 'Stonewall' Jackson's smaller force.
Saturday, March 8, 1862: Lincoln finally agreed with Gen. McClellan’s plan to invade Virginia from the sea. However, the President did insist that sufficient men had to be left behind to defend the capital. The Confederates suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Pea Ridge losing nearly 800 men with 1000 captured and any hope for control in Missouri. The former Union ship ‘USS Merrimac’ – burned and sunk by its own northern crew as the war started, was now rebuilt from the water line up with heavy armour and renamed as the Confederate Ironclad CSS ‘Virginia’ (pictured) – inflicted major losses on a small Union naval fleet of three ships resulting in the North losing 2 ships and 250 men at Hampton Roads. Only the night saved the third ship. The CSS ‘Virginia’ stood up to six full broadsides attacks with little damage done to her. However later that evening, the ‘USS Monitor’ entered the Hampton Roads.