Into this dire situation arrived Union Gen. Lew Wallace. Eighteen years before authoring “Ben Hur”, Wallace was writing orders to save Cincinnati from the Confederates. His first words were not poetic, but portending. “]It] is but fair to inform the citizens that an active, daring and powerful enemy threatens them with every consequence of war.”
Advantaged by a fermentation of fear, Wallace impressed all local citizens into fortification construction. “None are exempt, from the millionaires to the beggars,” revealed a correspondent. “This, of course causes some little grumbling among the upper classes.” He noted “their threats and growls do no good; go they must. . . . [T]hey who, perhaps never worked before, must work now.”
Back in Pennsylvania, a newspaper editor pondered the panic in Philadelphia, where no forts and no army existed to halt the surging Confederates. “Herein we discover one of the latent reasons why we have allowed this Rebellion to linger so long. We have not thought ourselves to be in danger.”
On September 11th, Confederate peace terms suddenly and dramatically appeared in Northern newspapers. What did this portend? Was the country on the verge of permanent division? Six days shy of the Constitution’s 86th birthday, were its opening words about to become an artifact? “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”
Dennis Frye is the Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
Robert Lee Hodge
There are numerous “black holes” of Civil War history (military and otherwise) in the period between Shiloh and Antietam. However, three battles or campaigns come to mind that do not get the attention they deserve.
The siege of Corinth, Miss., that took place in May 1862 is at the top of my list in the west. The railroad hub of Corinth was the reason Shiloh was fought. President Abraham Lincoln’s military advisers felt that Corinth was as important as taking the Confederate capital at Richmond. Moving troops and supplies fast by the new technology of railroads made Corinth a military magnet. About 120,000 Union troops laid siege to Corinth for over a month against 70,000 rebels – no small affair. Corinth was one of the largest military operations of the war. Rebel forces eventually abandoned Corinth, leaving the Confederacy further severed.
Close to the same time as Corinth, back east in Virginia, The Seven Days battles for Richmond were fought between Union commander George McClellan’s 120,000 soldiers and Robert E. Lee’s 90,000 Confederates. Lee launched savage and desperate attacks on McClellan’s Northerners, resulting in a Union retreat, leaving 36,000 casualties in their wake. The Seven Days battles consist of some familiar names — Beaver Dam Creek (Mechanicsville), Gaines Mill, Savages Station, Frayser’s Farm (Glendale) and Malvern Hill. One reason these battles are so overlooked is that they were so massive and complicated that there is a tendency to simplistically give broad brush strokes of that information.