1861 April 18th

April 18 1861 Thursday

Harper’s Ferry Arsenal and Armoury, VA

USA. Robert Edward Lee, son of a Revolutionary War hero, a distinguished 25 year veteran of the United States Army, former Superintendent of West Point Military Academy, and Colonel of the 1st US Cavalry was offered supreme field command of the US Army. He was invited personally by General-in-Chief Major-General Winfield Scott who had estimated his talents very highly since the Mexican War. Lee declined, choosing to remain loyal to his home state of Virginia above that of loyalty to the Federal state. Albert Sidney Johnston, Colonel of the 2nd US Cavalry, was also highly regarded and was offered a position as second-in-command of the US Army under Major-General Winfield Scott but he also declined the invitation and joined the Confederacy.

Arkansas. The US Army’s subsistence supply depot at Pine Bluff was seized by state forces.

District of Columbia. Five hundred unarmed and untrained Pennsylvania volunteers arrived in Washington to strengthen the garrison of 300 Regular Army soldiers that had been drawn from various commands to defend the capital.

Florida. The Confederates again demanded the surrender of Fort Pickens at Pensacola Bay but this was refused by the reinforced garrison.

Maryland. Union volunteer Nicholas Biddle was wounded by a secessionist mob in Baltimore and became the first black soldier to shed blood during the Civil War.

Texas. The steamer USS Star of the West was captured at Indianola by Confederate forces under Colonel Earl Van Dorn. On 9 January  1861, the Star of the West had arrived at Charleston Harbour to resupply the garrison at Fort Sumter. The ship was fired upon by cadets from The Citadel stationed at the Morris Island battery and was hit three times by what were arguably the first shots of the American Civil War. Although Star of the West suffered no major damage, the unarmed ship turned about to leave the harbour. its mission was abandoned and Star of the West headed for New York. The Star of the West next sailed for Texas to pick up seven companies of Union Army troops assembled at Indianola after being expelled from their US Army posts. While anchored off the Pass Caballo bar leading into Matagorda Bay, the ship was captured by Colonel Earl Van Dorn and members of two Galveston militia units, the Wigfall Guards and the Island City Rifles.

Virginia. The US Armoury and Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry was abandoned. Virginia State Brigadier-General Kenton Harper led in his volunteer command, fearing resistance from a regiment of Massachusetts volunteers but the garrison had departed to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Before leaving, the garrison burned the workshops and the building in which 17,000 muskets were stored. Although nearly 20,000 firearms were destroyed, the Virginia state forces were able to salvage the workshop equipment, tools, machinery and parts for the manufacture of muskets and pistols. They began to evacuate this material to the Richmond Arsenal in Virginia and the Fayetteville Arsenal in North Carolina. The means to manufacture the 1841 “Mississippi” US Rifle Musket went to Fayetteville, and that for the 1855 US Rifle Musket went to Richmond. The arsenal was abandoned and did not resume operation during or after the war but the machinery added greatly to the Confederates’ capacity to manufacture arms.

Virginia. The USS Merrimack was reported to be ready for sea at Norfolk. The modern steam frigate had been launched in 1855 and sailed to the Caribbean and Europe, before returning to Boston in 1857 for repairs. On 17 October 1857, it left port to become the flagship of the Pacific Squadron, sailing around Cape Horn to cruise the Pacific coast of South and Central America until heading for home in November 1859. Further repairs began at Norfolk in February 1860. On the afternoon of April 17 1861, Engineer in Chief B F Isherwood managed to start the frigate’s engines but during the previous night, secessionists had sunk light boats in the channel between Craney Island and Sewell’s Point, blocking its passage.

Virginia. US schooner Buchanan (lighthouse tender) was seized by the Confederates and taken to Rich­mond.

Virginia: Confederate Colonel Robert Edward Lee assumed command as Major-General of the Provisional Army of Virginia, arriving to assume command on 23 April 1861.

Virginia. Major-General of Virginia Militia William Booth Taliaferro was assigned to command Virginian forces at Norfolk.

Union Organisation

USA: Major Harvey Brown arrived to command the Department of Florida, with headquarters at Fort Pickens in Pensacola Bay.

Brown, Harvey / New Jersey / Born 6 September 1795 Rahway, New Jersey / Died Clifton, Staten Island, New York 31 March 1874
USMA 24 July 1818 6/23 Artillery / Cadet USMA 11 October 1814 / 2nd Lieutenant USA US Light Artillery 24 July 1818 / 1st US Artillery 1 June 1821 / 4th US Artillery 16 August 1821 / 1st Lieutenant USA 1st US Artillery 23 August 1821 / Assistant Quartermaster 19 May 1826-25 February 1829 / Captain USA 4th US Artillery 10 April 1835 / Major USA 2nd US Artillery 9 January 1851 / Lieutenant-Colonel USA 4th US Artillery 28 April 1861 / Colonel USA 5th US Artillery 14 May 1861 / Brigadier-General USV 23 November 1861 Declined / Retired USA 1 August 1863 / Brevet Captain USA 23 August 1831 Brevet Major USA 21 November 1836 Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel USA 20 August 1847 Brevet Colonel USA 13 September 1847 Brevet Brigadier-General USA 23 November 1861 Brevet Major-General USA 2 August 1866
Department of Florida 13 April 1861-22 February 1862 / Defences of New York City 5 April 1862-16 July 1863

Commander in Chief: President Abraham Lincoln

Vice-President: Hannibal Hamlin

Secretary of War: Simon Cameron

Secretary of the Navy: Gideon Welles

  • Pacific Squadron USN: Captain John B Montgomery USN

General–in-Chief: Winfield Scott

  • Department of the East: John Ellis Wool
  • Department of Florida: Harvey Brown assumed
  • Department of New Mexico: William Wing Loring
  • Department of the Pacific: Albert Sidney Johnston interim Edwin Vose Sumner awaited
    • District of Oregon: George Wright
  • Department of Texas: Carlos Adolphus Waite
  • Department of Utah: Philip St George Cooke
  • Department of Washington: Charles Ferguson Smith
  • Department of the West: William Selby Harney

Confederate Organisation

CSA: The Forces in Norfolk was established, comprising Virginia state forces sent to occupy Norfolk, Virginia, and the Gosport Navy Yard.

CSA: Major-General of Virginia Militia William Booth Taliaferro assumed command of the Forces in Norfolk.

Taliaferro, William Booth / Virginia / Born 28 December 1822 Gloucester, Virginia / Died 27 February 1898
Captain USA Infantry 23 February 1847 / 11th US Infantry 9 April 1847 / Major USA 9 August 1847 / Discharged USA 26 August 1848 / Major-General Virginia Militia 1858 / Major-General Provisional Army of Virginia 27 April 1861-1 May 1861 / Colonel PACS 23rd Virginia Infantry 1 May 1861 / Brigadier-General PACS 6 March 1862 to rank from 4 March 1862 / Major-General PACS 1 January 1865 Unconfirmed / Paroled Greensboro, North Carolina 2 May 1865 / WIA Groveton 28 August 1862 WIA Fredericksburg 13 December 1862
Forces in Norfolk 18 April 1861-26 April 1861 / 5th Brigade Army of the Northwest 8 September 1861-8 December 1861 / 4th Brigade Army of the Northwest 8 December 1861-December 1861 / Taliaferro’s Brigade Valley District December 1861-9 February 1862 / 3rd Brigade Jackson’s Division Valley District 9 February 1862-June 1862 / Taliaferro’s Brigade 1st Division Left Wing Army of Northern Virginia July 1862-9 August 1862 / 1st Division Left Wing Army of Northern Virginia 9 August 1862-28 August 1862 / 1st Division II Corps Army of Northern Virginia December 1862-February 1863 / Taliaferro’s Brigade District of Georgia 6 March 1863-10 July 1863 / 1st Division First Sub-District of South Carolina 10 July 1863-22 October 1863 / Seventh Sub-District of South Carolina 22 October 1863-20 February 1864 / Seventh Sub-District of South Carolina 6 May 1864-17 October 1864 / Third Sub-District of South Carolina 17 October 1864-26 April 1865 / Taliaferro’s Division Department of South Carolina Georgia and Florida 25 February 1865-March 1865

Commander in Chief: President Jefferson Finis Davis

Vice-President: Alexander Hamilton Stephens

Secretary of War: Leroy Pope Walker

Secretary of the Navy: Stephen Russell Mallory

  • Department of South Carolina: Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
    • “Forces in Charleston”: Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
  • Department of Texas: Earl Van Dorn awaited
  • Department of West Florida: Braxton Bragg
    • “Forces in Pensacola”: Braxton Bragg
  • District of Louisiana: David Emanuel Twiggs
    • “Forces in New Orleans” “Army of Louisiana”: Braxton Bragg
  • Defences of Savannah: Alexander Robert Lawton
  • Forces in Harper’s Ferry”: Kenton Harper
  • “Forces in Norfolk” established: William Booth Taliaferro assumed

Union Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

Major-General USA

Winfield Scott

Brigadier-General USA

John Ellis Wool
William Selby Harney
Edwin Vose Sumner

Brigadier-General USA (Staff)

Joseph Eggleston Johnston

Confederate Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

Major-General PACS

David Emanuel Twiggs

Brigadier-General ACSA

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
Braxton Bragg

Brigadier-General PACS

Alexander Robert Lawton

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