On August 1, Tennessee voted to adopt the Confederate constitution. Brazil recognized the CSA.
August 3rd marked the first use of aerial reconnaissance from a ship when a Union naval officer went up in a balloon to look at Confederate-controlled Hampton Roads. Also, a Federal fleet bombarded Galveston, Texas.
In a naval action at Fernandina, Florida, the USS Vincennes ended the Rebel blockade of that port.
President Lincoln signed a variety of bills produced during the special session of congress. Among them were a new issue of bonds, tariff increases, and the first direct income and real estate tax. But the most important one was the Confiscation Act of 1861 which gave federals the right to seize property used in the insurrection. This meant that slaves forced to participate in the Confederate war effort were essentially freed.
Also, Union enlistments were increased from 3 months to 2 years.
On August 6th, the Second Wheeling Convention met to discuss the separation of Kanawha, what would eventually be the 39 counties called West Virginia. Votes in these counties had run as much as 20 to 1 against secession, which necessitated the division.
In Kentucky also on the 6th, a naval officer, LT Bull Nelson was ordered to build a camp for the training of the Kentucky militia for the Union.
On August 7th, Confederate General John Magruder burned the village of Hampton, Virginia, which Union General Benjamin Butler had been planning to use to house freed slaves. On that same day, the Maryland legislature adjourned without seceding, but voted to meet again in September.
On August 10th, the battle of Wilson’s Creek (called the Battle of Springfield in the South) put Union General Nathaniel Lyon against the Confederate General Benjamin McCulloch. Lyon struck first, attacking Confederate positions along Wilson’s Creek in Southeast Missouri. At first the Union troops did well, chasing the cavalry away. But Confederates quickly reinforced and stabilized their positions. The Confederates made three attacks against the Union line, all were unsuccessful. But during the battle, Lyon was killed and his deputy, General Sweeny was wounded, leaving Major Samuel D. Sturgis in command. After resisting the third Rebel assault, Sturgis saw that his troops were exhausted and low on ammunition, so he ordered his forces to retreat to Springfield. The Confederates, in no better shape, declined to pursue. Because the Confederates were in possession of the field, they were counted victorious. The victory gave heart to southern sympathizers in Missouri and provided a springboard for General Price and his State Guard to thrust boldly to the north, as far as Lexington. This victory gave the South undisputed control of southeast Missouri, an area still known today as “Little Dixie.”
On August 15th, General George B. McClellan assumed command of the Army of the Potomac.
On August 19th, Henry Halleck was promoted to Major General, making him the senior Army officer in the Union Army.
August 20th was the date that the Second Wheeling Convention officially called for the creation of the state of Kanawha, what would eventually become West Virginia.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis made his first ambassadorial appointments, James M. Mason as Commissioner to Great Britain, and John Slidell as Commissioner to France.
In the Battle of Kessler’s Cross Lanes on August 26th, Confederate General John B. Floyd crossed the Gauley River in (West) Virginia to attack Colonel Erastus Tyler’s 7th Ohio. The Union troops were surprised and routed, the Rebels taking control of the Carnifex Ferry.
On that same day, Union General Benjamin Butler led a successful amphibious assault on Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The next day, they took the fortifcations.
On August 26th, Hawaiian King Kamehameha IV proclaimed the Hawaiian Islands as neutral in the war.
Colonel Ulysses S. Grant took command of Union forces in Southern Illinois and Southeast Missouri on the 28th.
On the 30th, General John C. Fremont declared martial law in Missouri and summarily freed all slaves in the state. This declaration meant little as the measure far superseded the old pioneer’s authority.
On August 31, Jefferson Davis promoted to the rank of full General Samuel Cooper, Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, and P.G.T. Beauregard.