1861 May 23rd

May 23 1861 Thursday

Escaped Slaves in Union Military Camps defined as “Contraband”

Chesapeake Bay Blockade

Go to May 24 1861

CSA. Confederate Colonel Lloyd J Beall was appointed as the first Commandant of the Confederate States Marine Corps.

California. Skirmish at Larrabee’s Ranch.

California. Operations were commenced against Indians on the Mad and Eel Rivers. The operation ended on 17 June 1861.

Massachusetts. USS Mississippi. Captain William Mervine USN, was compelled to put back into Boston for repairs because acts of sabotage had damaged her steam condensers.

New York. A battery of modern breech-loading 12-pounder Whitworth guns was landed at New York City, as a gift from American patriots abroad.

Virginia. Demonstration at Hampton.

Virginia. The state of Virginia voted to join the Confederacy by a majority vote of three-to-one. Counties in the western part of the state, however, prepared to break away from the rest of Virginia as the majority of their population preferred to remain loyal to the US government.

Virginia. Two companies of Confederate troops surrendered to Union forces at Clarksburg.

Virginia. Virginia State Major-General Walter Gwynn, a former US Army Engineers officer and former railroad engineer and surveyor, sited and supervised the construction of batteries to defend Norfolk, from late April to early May 1861. This included the active battery at Sewell’s Point. Gwynn commanded the defence of Norfolk until he was relieved by regular Confederate forces on 23 May 1861.

Virginia. Union Colonel Justin Dimick retained command of the 415 US Regular Army garrison soldiers stationed in Fort Monroe, while Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler took command of the entire garrison and the region around the fort. With reinforcements arriving continually, Butler planned to advance up the York Peninsula, and also to threaten Norfolk and other locations on the southern coast of Hampton Roads.

Virginia. Union forces from Fort Monroe made a reconnaissance towards Hampton.

Virginia. Three slaves of a Virginia owner sought refuge with the Union garrison at Fortress Monroe and the owner demanded their return under the Fugitive Slave Acts. Major-General Benjamin Franklin Butler refused on the grounds that Virginia had seceded and no longer had rights under Federal law. He later referred to the slaves as contraband of war and the term “contraband” came into unofficial usage as a slang term for a former slave. Butler’s ruling that slaves were deemed as property and therefore “contraband of war” provided a convenient improvisation to evade laws requiring the return of escaped slaves to their owners.

Union Organisation

Commander in Chief: President Abraham Lincoln
Vice-President: Hannibal Hamlin
Secretary of War: Simon Cameron
Secretary of the Navy: Gideon Welles

Atlantic Blockading Squadron: Silas Horton Stringham
Gulf Blockading Squadron: William Mervine
Pacific Squadron: John Berrien Montgomery
Western Gunboat Flotilla: John Rodgers
Potomac Flotilla: James Harmon Ward

General–in-Chief: Winfield Scott

Department of Annapolis: John Adams Dix

Department of the East: John Ellis Wool

Department of Florida: Harvey Brown

Department of New Mexico: Edward Richard Sprigg Canby

Department of the Ohio: George Brinton McClellan

Department of the Pacific: Edwin Vose Sumner

  • District of Oregon: George Wright

Department of Pennsylvania: Robert Patterson

Department of Texas: Vacant

Department of Utah: Philip St George Cooke

Department of Virginia: Benjamin Franklin Butler

Department of Washington: Joseph King Fenno Mansfield

Department of the West: William Selby Harney

Confederate Organisation

CSA: The Forces in Norfolk was discontinued and incorporated into the Department of Norfolk.
CSA: The Department of Norfolk was established, comprising the former Forces in Norfolk.
CSA: Virginia State Brigadier-General Benjamin Huger was appointed to command the Department of Norfolk, arriving on 26 May 1861.

CSA: Colonel Jones Mitchell Withers (3rd Alabama Infantry) assumed temporary command of the Department of Norfolk.

CSA: John Buchanan Floyd promoted Brigadier-General PACS 23 May 1861.

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 Alexandria: Milledge Luke Bonham

  • Alexandria Line: Milledge Luke Bonham

Department of Norfolk: Jones Mitchell Withers temporary Benjamin Huger awaited

Department of North Carolina: Theophilus Hunter Holmes

  • Defences of North Carolina: Theophilus Hunter Holmes

Department of South Carolina: Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

  • “Forces in Charleston”: Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

Department of Southwestern Virginia: William Wing Loring

Department of Texas: Earl Van Dorn

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

Indian Territory: Benjamin McCulloch

Potomac Line: Daniel Ruggles

Hampton Line: John Bankhead Magruder

Forces in Harper’s Ferry”: Thomas Jonathan Jackson interim, Joseph Eggleston Johnston awaited

Forces in Richmond: Thomas Turner Fauntleroy

Forces in the Kanawha Valley: Christopher Quarles Tompkins

Union Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

Major-General USA

Winfield Scott
George Brinton McClellan
John Charles Frémont

Major-General USV

John Adams Dix
Nathaniel Prentiss Banks
Benjamin Franklin Butler

Brigadier-General USA

John Ellis Wool
William Selby Harney
Edwin Vose Sumner
Joseph King Fenno Mansfield
Irvin McDowell
Robert Anderson
William Starke Rosecrans

Brigadier-General USV

Samuel Peter Heintzelman
David Hunter
Erasmus Darwin Keyes
Andrew Porter
Fitz-John Porter
William Buel Franklin
William Tecumseh Sherman
Charles Pomeroy Stone
Don Carlos Buell
Thomas West Sherman
Nathaniel Lyon
John Pope
George Archibald McCall
William Reading Montgomery
Philip Kearny
Joseph Hooker
John Wolcott Phelps
Ulysses Simpson Grant
Joseph Jones Reynolds
Samuel Ryan Curtis
Charles Smith Hamilton
Darius Nash Couch
Rufus King
Jacob Dolson Cox
Stephen Augustus Hurlbut
Franz Sigel
Robert Cumming Schenck
Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss
Frederick West Lander
Benjamin Franklin Kelley
John Alexander McClernand
Alpheus Starkey Williams
Israel Bush Richardson
James Cooper

Brigadier-General USA (Staff)

Montgomery Cunningham Meigs

Confederate Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

General ACSA

Samuel Cooper

Major-General PACS

David Emanuel Twiggs

Brigadier-General ACSA

Robert Edward Lee
Joseph Eggleston Johnston
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
Braxton Bragg

Brigadier-General PACS

Alexander Robert Lawton
Milledge Lake Bonham
Benjamin McCulloch
William Wing Loring
Charles Clark
John Buchanan Floyd

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