Sunday, October 2

This Week in The Civil War: Sunday, Oct. 2

William Tecumseh Sherman and Robert Anderson

Robert Anderson was the Union colonel and commander at Fort Sumter, S.C., when a Confederate bombardment in April 1861 opened the Civil War. Afterward, he rose through the command and was promoted to the Army's Department of the Cumberland Valley. But when an ailing Anderson took medical leave, he was succeeded by a new commander, William Tecumseh Sherman, on Oct. 8, 1861. So would Sherman begin a military career that - despite ups and downs - would make him one of the most recognized Union commanders after Ulysses Grant. Eventually Sherman would go down in history for a scorched earth campaign that led to the capture and burning of Atlanta in 1864 and the subsequent march by his troops to the sea on a wide path of destruction in the Deep South. This fall marks the start of an outbreak of numerous small skirmishes but no battles of significance. Outside Washington, a federal observatory ballon is lofted near the northern Virginia community of Falls Church, hoping to spy out Confederate pickets. Within days, skirmishing erupts near Falls Church but reports say "the (cannon) balls coming from each side of the delicivity of a hill and a dense woods .. failed their purpose" and Union batteries escaped harm. Further west, rebels who had seized Lexington, Missouri, during a major battle the previous month withdraw as federal forces threaten. "The evacuation of Lexington by the rebels is confirmed," The Associated Press reports in a dispatch published Oct. 4, 1861. It reports "six thousand men left Lexington, crossing the river on Saturday ... they were met by a Federal force ... when a battle ensued" and the federals were driven back. It added: "Many of the rebels swarm the river in their impatience to get across."

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