This week in the war:
Sunday, February 23, 1862: Mark Twain travels West in an adventure later chronicled in the book ”Roughing It.” Twain travels to Nevada with his brother Orion, who had been named the secretary to the territorial governor. He tries his hand at mining and other schemes, without much success, before becoming a reporter for the Virginia City (Nev.) Daily Territorial Enterprise. The South was not fairing much better. General Grant (US) has ordered martial law in Tennessee and orders William “Bull” Nelson (US) to advance his troops onto Nashville. (pictured) Lincoln appoints Andrew Johnson as military governor of Tennessee, just as the Confederate Solders were abandoning Nashville and quickly as that could. State Capital left last week for Memphis to setup government there.
Monday, February 24, 1862: Gen. Don Carlos Buell (US) commanded the Union forces that reached the Cumberland River opposite Nashville today. Up the river itself came the troops transports of Grant’s army, and they began to unload and prepare to occupy the town. The departing Confederates, moved to Murfreesboro, did so under the rear-guard protection of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry. In the streets of the town piles of supplies continued to emit clouds of smoke as everything from cotton to full hams were being burnt. Little Willie Lincoln is laid to rest.
Tuesday, February 25, 1862: Lincoln signs the “Legal Tender Act” creating a national currency and altering the nation monetary system forever. Now with the words “Demand Note” removed, gold or silver would not be replaced with the new bill.
Wednesday, February 26, 1862: A few women train for battle. The Memphis Avalanche reports: “A bevy of ladies on Union street were practicing in sharp shooting yesterday with the pistol. Several shots were made that would have astonished a few of our young men, who have never learned to handle fire arms.” Memphis matron, Mrs. J.B. Gray, undertakes a fund-raising project to build a gunboat. At nearly the same moment, a flood of refugees arrives from fallen Nashville, to be followed by 400 fugitives from Island 10 at New Madrid, KY, and then many more exiles who will strain the city’s resources and add to the mounting poverty and crime.
Thursday, February 27, 1862: William B. Taney, Chief Justice of the United States, ruled day that the president did not have the power to suspend the right of habeas corpus. John Merryman had been arrested in Maryland by military authorities for allegedly recruiting for the Confederate army. “Ex Parte Merryman” was hotly debated. Lincoln, maintaining that the Constitution permitted suspension of rights in cases of rebellion or time of war, simply ignored the ruling. So once again, people could be arrested and held without trial.
Friday, February 28, 1862: Ordered to open the Mississippi River, Union General John Pope leads a force of 25,000 men and march overland through swamps, lugging supplies and artillery from Commerce, MO. He moves his fleet toward New Madrid, Missouri on the Mississippi River. Some of his men were already there at the The Battle (also known as the Siege) of Island Number Ten. This was an engagement at the New Madrid or Kentucky Bend on the Mississippi River. The island at the base of a tight double turn in the course of the river, was held by the Confederates from the early days of the war. It was an excellent site to stop Union efforts to invade the South along the river, as vessels would have to approach the island “bows on” and then slow down to make the turns. Unfortunately for the defenders, it also had one faulted weakness in that it depended on a single road for supplies and reinforcements, so that if an enemy force could cut that road, the garrison would be trapped. This siege will continue for over a month. Southerners hold a day of fasting at the request of President Davis. Union troops now occupy Charleston, South Carolina.
Saturday, March 1, 1862: Richmond was put under martial law while a number of prominent citizens were arrested for proclaiming that the war should be brought to an end. General Grant was ordered to proceed south, up the Tennessee River, toward Eastport, Miss. The first skirmishes occurred at an obscure place called Pittsburg Landing, Tenn.