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A Nation Divided.  The Civil War in contemporary prints
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1861: November

[ Frémont | McClellan | Port Royal | Missouri ]
[ Battle of Belmont | Trent Affair | Battle of Ivy Mountain ]



John C Fremont
General John C. Frémont, commander of the Union forces in the West, had issued a proclamation at the end of August declaring martial law and declaring all pro-secessionist property forfeit, including slaves. Lincoln, concerned with keeping the border states in the Union rescinded Frémont's order. Frémont, however, continued his maverick attitude and there was concern he would not follow Lincoln's orders in the future.

In October, Lincoln sent two orders to Missouri, one relieving Frémont of his command and the other placing General David Hunter in his place. These orders were not to be presented to Frémont either if he had just won a victory or was on the eve of a battle, for fear that this would weaken rather than enhance Lincoln's position.

News of these orders, however, were leaked in the press and Frémont, surrounded by his body-guards and personally loyal troops, set guard to prevent any messenger getting through with the orders. The captain assigned to deliver the message disguised himself as a farmer with news about the rebels, and he managed to hand deliver the order to Frémont on November 1st.

Frémont decided that if he could immediately achieve a victory against the rebels, who he believed were located near his camp, the order would be abrogated, so he arrested the disguised captain and prepared to attack the Confederates. The enemy was not, however, to be found and with the escape of the captain, Frémont realized the game was up, and on November 2nd, he stepped down from his command and returned to St. Louis.


George B. McClellan
In July, General George McClellan had been appointed head of the armies around Washington and by late 1861 he had transformed a disorganized mass of about 50,000 men into disciplined army of about 170,000 men. "Little Mac," young, energetic, demanding, and inspiring, not only was seen by the general public as a great military leader but he was also adored by his troops. Whenever he rode among his troops he was greeted with great hurrahs.

Winfield Scott
His surging popularity, prompted McClellan to challenge his superior, the legendary General Winfield Scott, who was commander-in-chief of the army. The generals' disagreements over strategy became public, spilling into President Lincoln's cabinet and eventually involved Lincoln himself. McClellan pushed for Scott's retirement, arguing Scott was too old (he was nearly 40 years older than McClellan) On October 31, the 75 year-old Scott submitted a request to retire, citing an inability to cope with the heavy duties of his office at such an advanced age. McClellan was appointed his successor as commander-in-chief on Nov. 1.

Port Royal

After having secured Hatteras Inlet, the Union looked for a port along the southern Atlantic coast where a fleet could be maintained so as to support the blockade of the Confederacy. The obvious choice was Port Royal Sound, South Carolina, not only an excellent harbor, but one the Confederacy could not easily defend.

Fleet leaving Hampton Roads
Captain Samuel F. Du Pont was put in charge of this operation and a large expedition of 74 vessels set sail from Hampton Roads in late October. Du Pont was met by some immediate setbacks, as the Confederacy knew of this supposedly secret expedition before he set sail, and the fleet ran into a heavy gale almost as soon as it set out.

Bombardment Port Royal
Still Du Pont arrived off the entrance of Port Royal Sound in early November and prepared his plan of attack on the two forts, Beauregard and Walker, defending the sound. Devising an effective plan making use of his superior ordnance and the maneuverability of his ships, on November 7th, Du Pont was able to reduce to two forts to submission and thus secure this important harbor, as well as the nearby towns of Beaufort and Port Royal.


On November 3rd, southern-supporting Missouri legislators voted to secede from the Union and on November 28th, the Confederate Congress admitted Missouri as the twelfth Confederate state. Though Missouri effectively remained in the Union, from thence to the end of the war there was a Confederate "government in exile" for Missouri.

Battle of Belmont. November 7.

Early in the autumn, the Confederates had moved into Columbus, Kentucky, and General Ulysses S. Grant, in response, moved his troops to Paducah. Fearing Confederate thrusts into Missouri, which lay just across the Mississippi River from Columbus, in early November Grant sailed down river to attack the Confederate forces that had crossed to the small town of Belmont, Missouri, opposite Columbus.

Battle of Belmont
On November 7th, the Battle of Belmont commenced with Grant's troops forcing the Confederates back towards the river. The Union forces, considering the battle won, started to loot, but soon reinforcements from the main Confederate encampment attacked back across the river, including some troops to Grant's rear, supported by considerable cannon fire from the high banks around Columbus. Grant was forced to retreat under fire, remarking that "we must cut our way out as we cut our way in." He was able to bring almost all his troops out, being the last to board the transports back to his base in Paducah.

Little was gained by either side in the Battle of Belmont, with equal losses for both armies. So while Grant's first action in the war was inconclusive, he did gain valuable experience and was able to extract his troops in good order.

Trent Affair

Capture of Confederate commissioners
On November 8, two Confederate ministers plenipotentiary, James M. Mason and John Slidell, were captured en route to their posts in England and France, when the British vessel H.M.S. Trent was stopped by the U.S.S. San Jacinto under the command of Capt. Charles Wilkes. This caused an international incident, which was a boon for the Jefferson Davis and a problem for Lincoln. No lasting harm was done, however, and the issue was resolved when the emissaries were released in January.

Battle of Ivy Mountain. November 8-9.

Confederate troops under Col. John Stuart Williams were recruiting for troops in southeastern Kentucky. In response, General Sherman ordered General William "Bull" Nelson to break up the Confederate camp at Prestonburg. In response, Williams decided to return to Virginia to replenish his supplies and avoid the Union thrust, but Nelson acted quckly to cut off Williams' retreat.

On November 8 & 9th the two armies met near Pikeville in the Battle of Ivy Mountain. Initially a smaller detachment under Capt. Andrew May fired on the massed Union troops, temporarily halting their advance, but May was soon forced to retreat. The Confederates continued to perform delaying tactics, such as felling trees and burning bridges, in order to affect their escape, which they were able to do, reaching Abingdon, Virginia on November 9th. The battle was inconclusive, but the Union did strengthen their control of eastern Kentucky.

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