In April 1862 General McClellan finally made a decisive move against Richmond. April also saw the first move that would lead to the outlawing of slavery across America when Lincoln declared the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. The act spurred on the Confederacy in its belief that the government in Washington was doing what it could to destroy the way of life in the South. Lincoln’s action served to enflame the American Civil War even more.
April 1st: McClellan had a force of three regiments facing 12,000 Confederate soldiers at Fortress Monroe. In total McClellan had a total force of 112,000 men.
April 3rd: The Senate outlawed slavery in the District of Columbia. This was seen to set the precedent that slavery should be abolished in any area over which the Federal government had jurisdiction. There were only 63 slaves in the District but the act set the wheels in motion for the abolition of slavery in all areas controlled by the Federal government.
April 4th: Union forces started a move on Yorktown – the start of McClellan’s campaign in Virginia. The Confederate general Johnston had 17,000 men under his command along an eight-mile front but faced 100,000 Union troops.
April 5th: McClellan’s forced continued its push down the Virginia peninsula.
April 6th: 40,000 Confederate soldiers attacked a major Union base at Shiloh. They took the Union force by surprise and used to their good the fact that the Unionist force had not built any major defensive lines around their camp as they believed it would be perceived as a sign of weakness by the South. The fighting was fierce but by nightfall the North had managed to bring up reserves so that they had 54,000 men to the Confederates 34,000.
April 7th: The North launched a counter-offensive at Shiloh. Like the previous day the fighting was fierce but gun ships on the River Tennessee supported the Unionists. “Bloody Shiloh” had no obvious winning side and historians view the battle as a ‘draw’. But the losses suffered by both sides far outweighed any previous battle. The North lost 1754 killed, 8408 wounded and 2885 captured while the South lost 1728 killed, 8102 wounded and 959 men taken prisoner. Of the two sides, the North was better able to cope with such losses so their media portrayed it as a Northern victory.
April 8th: 3,000 Confederate soldiers were taken prisoner at Island Number 10 on the Mississippi River.
April 11th: The House of Representatives, in support of the Senate, passed a bill to ban slavery in the District of Columbia. The Unionists captured Fort Pulaski in the mouth of the harbour at Savannah after an eighteen-hour bombardment.
April 16th: President Lincoln signed a bill that outlawed slavery in the District of Columbia. President Davis signed a bill that made all males living in the Confederacy aged between 18 and 35 liable for military service.
April 18th: A Unionist naval fleet assembled at Ship Island in the Mississippi Delta, to begin its move against New Orleans. The route it was scheduled to take was fraught with dangers not least the forts at Jackson and St Philip, which could muster over 170 rifled 63-pounder cannon. The Unionist fleet was under the command of Commodore David Farragut and it carried 15,000 troops who were tasked with taking New Orleans.
April 21st: After three days of bombardment and being hit by over 4,000 rounds Forts Jackson and St. Philip were still functioning.
April 22nd: A Confederate deserter, however, confirmed to Farragut that the damage to both forts had been great. Farragut decided to try to ‘run’ the forts with his fleet. He told his subordinates that his philosophy was “conquer or be conquered”.
April 24th: By dawn of this day, the Federal naval fleet had passed both forts. However, his fleet had lost 37 men killed and 171 wounded. Farragut steamed to within 18 miles (by river) to New Orleans.
April 25th: Fort Macon in North Carolina fell to Unionist troops. 450 Confederate soldiers were taken prisoner. Farragut’s fleet arrived in New Orleans and claimed the city.
April 28th: Forts St. Philip and Jackson formally surrendered to Union forces.