Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
Skirmishes, seizures, and movements as the two opposing sides organize themselves for war.
On May 1, Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered General Thomas Jackson, soon to be known as “Stonewall,” to seize the Federal arsenal at the town of Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Two days later, Union General Winfield Scott ordered U.S. troops to seize Arlington Heights, a series of hills overlooking Washington. Arlington Heights was the home of Robert E. Lee.
President Lincoln, on May 3rd, asked Congress to call up 42,000 volunteers for the army and another 18,000 for the navy.
On May 6, the CSA grew by one more state as Arkansas seceded from the Union. On that same day, Tennessee voted to place the decision of secession in the hands of her voters.
Also on the 6th, CSA President Jefferson Davis approved a bill declaring war between the Union and the Confederacy.
May 10th saw Union General Nathaniel Lyons take control of St. Louis to quell the riots there. In so doing, he also seized a Missouri militia camp, Camp Jackson, seizing some 1,200 1855 Springfield rifles. This act incensed General Sterling Price who, although initially pro-Union, raised an army to take control of Missouri for the South.
Baltimore seethed with conflict, as southern sympathizers held protests. Union General Benjamin Butler took control of Federal Hill in the inner harbor and warned the southerners that he would fire on downtown Baltimore unless the protests stopped.
On the 15th, Nathaniel Lyons occupied the capitol city of Missouri, Jefferson City.
On May 18th the battle of Sewall’s Point, Virginia was fought. This was the first offensive action by the North.
Kentucky declared itself neutral on May 20th, hoping to avoid destruction and bloodshed. On that same day, the North Carolina Secession Convention voted to secede. The next day, Missouri also declared its neutrality, paving the way for years of violent guerilla warfare.
Also on the 21st, the Confederate Congress voted to move the CSA’s capital from Montgomery to Richmond, Virginia.
On May 23rd, Virginia ratified the secession referendum by an almost 4-to-1 vote. On that day, General Jackson and his Confederate forces attacked the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, seizing 56 locomotives.
Federal forces occupied Alexandria, Virginia on the 24th. Col Elmer Ellsworth of the 11th New York was killed in the Marshall House Inn for removing the Confederate flag. He is considered the first officer killed in the line of duty in the Civil War. Meanwhile, In Missouri, Sterling Price refused the Governor’s order to disband his army. On that day, Union General Benjamin Butler declared that slaves escaping to the north would be treated as “contraband of war.”
On the 26th, U.S. Postmaster General Blair announced the end of mail service to the southern states.
By the 28th, Confederates controlled the B&O rail lines from Point of Rocks to Cumberland.
And on the 31st, the U.S. mint in New Orleans closes.