Question of the Week: 5/24-5/30/21

As we continue to move through the anniversary timeline for 1861…

In your opinion, what was the event that shocked the nation (or a particular side) and made them realize “this is war”?

15 Responses to Question of the Week: 5/24-5/30/21

  1. If not the firing on Fort Sumter, then most assuredly when Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers April 15, 1861.

  2. Alexandria Virginia was unhappy with its incorporation into the District of Columbia and was a driving force behind the Retro-cession movement, commenced 1818, that resulted in return of the Virginia component of the Federal District to the Commonwealth of Virginia… 29 years later.
    On 24 May 1861 a force of Federal troops was ferried down the Potomac and landed at rebellious Virginia’s port of Alexandria. With the exception of two deaths, one on each side, the Federal occupation was methodical, and expeditious. And what had taken Alexandria 29 years to accomplish through the Courts was overturned by armed troops in a single day.
    It was the first capture of Rebel territory following the Outrage at Fort Sumter. And Alexandria remained in Union hands for the duration of the war.

  3. Emotionally, it was the firing on Sumter, and Lincoln’s subsequent calling out the militias. But I think the true seriousness of it struck home with the secession of four of the border slave states. What had seemed at first a somewhat localized rebellion “way down there” was suddenly on the Unions doorstep

  4. First Bull Run. There were those who thought the ‘war’ would be ‘resolved’ relatively quickly. First Bull Run showed what was to come, and that it was indeed ‘war’ in every sense of the word. “The genie was out of the bottle” and all that.

  5. There are two questions here, in some ways:

    1. “This is war, and we will have to fight it out.” This is the firing on Fort Sumter. It galvanized everyone, and forced a choosing of sides which started within hours of the reports being received around the country.

    2. “This won’t be quick – quite the contrary.” This was a process that started with the Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861, reinforced in 1862 by Shiloh and the Seven Days.

  6. On the international front, the Trent Affair in late 1861 shocked two nations and a protonation. Captain Charles Wilkes of the USS San Jacinto intercepted the British mail packet Trent on November 8 near Cuba and–without orders, entirely on his own initiative–forcibly removed Confederate envoys James Mason and John Slidell as contraband of war. It was an egregious violation of international law; an enraged British public demanded their release or armed response. A third war with former colonies loomed. Northerners at first celebrated and denounced Great Britain while Southerners joyfully anticipated a new, powerful ally. But cooler heads prevailed on both sides. The Lincoln administration released the prisoners and mildly apologized. British leaders did not push the issue and the threat passed, but it was close.

  7. Big Bethel. Confederates were going to kill you if you took a step forward. Or fancy pants Col. Ellsworth’s prior killing, for the same reason.

  8. I agree with Charles. The Union casualties stunned the North. Ulysses Grant won the two-day battle but was roundly criticized by the news media and was soon demoted.

  9. Ball’s Bluff- a Union disaster in which troops were pushed back into the Potomac River, some drowning. Senator Edward Baker was killed, a friend of Lincoln. The lopsided defeat and manner in which it occurred sparked outrage in the north.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!