March 1862 finally saw McClellan make some kind of move against Richmond – some two months after being ordered to do so by Lincoln. In March Jefferson Davis appointed Robert E Lee to be his military advisor.
March 1st: Richmond was put under martial law while a number of prominent citizens were arrested for proclaiming that the war should be brought to an end.
March 2nd: Confederate forces abandoned Columbus, Kentucky, seen as a major Confederate stronghold but one that was vulnerable to attack after the fall of Fort Donelson.
March 3rd: General Halleck accused General Grant of “neglect of duty, inefficiency and drunkenness". McClellan gave Halleck permission to arrest Grant if he thought it was necessary. This argument was the result of Grant’s popularity in the North after the capture of Fort Donelson, which Halleck claimed the credit for coupled with Halleck’s lack of any real progress in Missouri.
March 4th: General Robert E Lee was appointed military advisor to Jefferson Davis. Halleck removed Grant from his command. Halleck was appointed commander of all the Union’s western armies – his reward for the victory at Fort Donelson.
March 6th: Lincoln asked Congress to approve Federal funding to assist states thinking about introducing emancipation of slaves legislation. The Confederate Congress agreed that a scorched earth policy could be used in Virginia if Unionist forces broke through. The aim was to ensure that no cotton or tobacco fell into the hands of the North.
March 7th: McClellan moved the Army of the Potomac into Virginia. His target was the Confederate force based at Manassas.
March 8th: Lincoln finally agreed with McClellan’s plan to invade Virginia from the sea. However, the President did insist that sufficient men had to be left behind to defend the capital. The Confederates suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Pea Ridge losing nearly 800 men with 1000 captured. The former ‘USS Merrimac’ – now the Confederate ‘Virginia’ – inflicted major losses on a small Union naval fleet of three ships resulting in the North losing 2 ships and 250 men at Hampton Roads. Only the night saved the third ship. The ‘Virginia’ was a heavily armoured ironclad that stood up to six full broadsides with little damage done to her. However on the evening of the 8th the ‘USS Monitor’ entered the Hampton Roads.
March 9th: The Army of the Potomac moved off in search of a Confederate force they thought was at Rappahannock – but it was not and they returned to their base at Alexandria without having made contact with the enemy. The ‘USS Monitor’ engaged the ‘Virginia’ at Hampton Roads. After a series of attacks on one another neither saw an opportunity to win and both broke off the engagement. Both ships were simply too heavily armoured to be susceptible to the firepower of the other.
March 11th: Another War Order by Lincoln stated that McClellan was now only commander of the Army of the Potomac. This was a temporary move only to ensure that McClellan could concentrate all his energy on a successful campaign in Virginia.
March 13th: Union forces captured $1 million of Confederate supplies at Point Pleasant, Missouri.
March 15th: Grant was handed a command once again – he was placed in charge of Unionist forces in Tennessee.
March 17th: McClellan started his campaign to attack Virginia from the coast by moving his troops to Fortress Monroe.
March 19th: The South puts into place a plan to stop the North taking two vital rail lines – the Chattanooga to Georgia and the Corinth to Memphis lines. If the North took either line, they would have an easier route into the South’s heartland.
March 23rd: The Battle of Winchester was fought (in the South this was known as the Battle of Kernstown). The South took heavy casualties with 270 killed and as many as 1000 missing. The North suffered 103 killed with 400 wounded and missing. A large Unionist force gathered at Camp Shiloh and made ready for an attack on Corinth, Mississippi. As the Confederates expected such an attack, their forces in Corinth were being increased.
March 24th: Lincoln became convinced that the South was about to launch an attack on Washington DC and ordered troops who were to have supported McClellan’s campaign in Virginia to remain in the capital.
March 29th: The Confederates continued their build-up of men at Corinth, Mississippi, and waited for the North to attack. The size of the force gathered in Corinth showed that the South was not prepared to let the town fall to the North in view of its importance with regards to the two vital rail lines identified by the South.