Sunday, November 20

This Week in The Civil War: Sunday, Nov. 20

Action off Pensacola, Debate about freed slaves

Federal forces this week in 1861 continue to press their blockade of the Southern coast. Two Union men-of-war, the USS Niagara and the USS Richmond, turn their guns on Confederate defenses rimming Florida's northern panhandle — targeting Fort Barrancas, Fort McRee and the Pensacalo Navy Yard. After a bombardment spanning two days, there is little loss of life after an attack that will have little impact on the larger conduct of the war. Nonetheless the bombardment has damaged Fort McRae, where many women and children took refuge, several Navy Yard buildings, and a nearby village. In 1862, Pensacola will ultimately be surrendered to Union troops who will use it as a staging point for Naval actions in the South the rest of the war. The Associated Press reports, meanwhile, that wintry weather has begun nipping at the Northern cities where many are alarmed at the high wartime price of coal used to heat homes and buildings. In Philadelphia, AP reports, "The coal question has been agitating residents of this city ever since the cold weather has set in." It adds some seek coal at lower prices directly from "Good Samaritans" at a Pennsylvania mine refusing to profit exceedingly from wartime scarcity. This same week AP reports from Washington that more pressing issues are emerging in Congress over how the Union should handle questions of slavery — and particularly escaped or liberated slaves known as "contrabands" who reach the federal side. "Inasmuch as many slaveholders in Virginia and in other quarters abandon their plantations when menaced by the Federal armies, and necessarily leave their slaves behind them, a practical question is forced up on the government as to what is to be done with the "contrabands," the AP dispatch notes.

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