Almanac History - May 1862

May 1st, 1862

General McClellan's guns are placed in readiness against Yorktown, Virginia as the Federals prepare to attack.

May 3rd, 1862

Yorktown, Virginia is evacuated by Confederate General Joe Johnston's troops. The tremendous force of the Northern Army of the Potomac has overwhelmed the Confederates without having to wage a major battle.

May 5th, 1862

Lincoln and his secretaries of War and the Treasury travel to Fort Monroe where they will observe the Federal advance into Virginia.

May 7th, 1862

Clashes occur in the Shenandoah Valley: Franklin's Federals are attacked by General G. W. Smith's Confederates who hope to keep the road from Williamsburg to Yorktown protected.

May 8th, 1862

The Battle of McDowell, a major battle of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, sees General Stonewall Jackson's Confederates repulse an attack by Federals under the command of General Robert Schenk.

May 9th, 1862

Lincoln admonishes McClellan for his difficulties in maintaining cooperation between himself and corps leaders. The Confederates evacuate Norfolk, destroying much of their own supplies and equipment, but still leaving a large amount of valuable material to the Federals who will push into the area the next day.

May 10th, 1862

The Federals push to gain further control in Virginia: Norfolk and Portsmouth are occupied by 5000 Union troops.

May 11th, 1862

The Confederate ironcladMerrimack, after having confronted the Union ironclad Monitor in a spectacular stand-off on 9 March 1862, is destroyed by the Confederate navy to prevent her from being seized by the enemy.

May 12th, 1862

Lincoln reverses his blockade order in a proclamation which will reopen the ports of Beaufort, North Carolina, Port Royal, South Carolina and New Orleans, Louisiana. This order will take effect on the first of June.

May 13th, 1862

The situation in Richmond, Capital of the Confederacy, assumes crisis proportions in the face of advancing Federal troops. President Davis' wife, Varina, joins many others who decide to leave the threatened city.

May 15th, 1862

Major fighting breaks out at Drewry's Bluff in Virginia, where Federals invading near the Confederate capital deal with gunfire from Fort Darling.

May 16th, 1862

General Benjamin Butler in New Orlean's issues his famous "Woman Order" -- indicative of his complete disregard for convention and his tyrannical attitude town the citizens of this vanquished city. The order provides that any female who shows "contempt for the United States...shall be regarded as a woman of the town plying her avocation." The following day he stops publication of the New Orleans newspapers,BeeandDelta.

May 17th, 1862

At Fredericksburg, Virginia General McDowell receives orders to advance toward the Confederate capital at Richmond in order to work with McClellan's forces.

May 18th, 1862

In the Shenandoah Valley, Stonewall Jackson continues to push the Federals, clashing with General Nathaniel Banks.

May 19th, 1862

President Davis, in continued communication with his wife, indicates the Confederate position concerning preparation for the Federal offensive on Richmond: "We are uncertain of everything except that a battle must be near at hand."

May 20th, 1862

McClellan's Army of the Potomac is now only eight miles from Richmond. To prevent Union General Banks from moving troops to meet and support McClellan, Stonewall Jackson and General Ewell take their 16,000 men into the Luray Valley area of the Shenandoah. Their goal is to block Bank's path out of the western reaches of the Shenanadoah.

May 21st, 1862

McClellan continues to ask the President for more troops to augment the Army of the Potomac. This time he wants help from McDowell's troops who are enroute to Richmond.

May 22nd, 1862

Stonewall Jackson pushes further toward Front Royal in preparation for a major engagement.

May 23rd, 1862

After conferring with McDowell, Lincoln authorizes him to direct 20,000 troops into the Shenandoah area to prevent Confederates from moving their forcesany closer to Banks' troops. Lincoln tells McDowell, "Your object will be to capture the forces of Jackson and Ewell." General Stonewall Jackson engages 8000 Union soldiers in the Front Royal area and takes the area from Federal control.

May 24th, 1862

After conferring with his Cabinet, Lincoln orders General Fremont to advance against General Jackson's forces in the Shenandoah Valley.

May 25th, 1862

General Stonewall Jackson attacks Federal positions at Winchester, Virginia. This encounter claims 400 Confederate casualties -- 68 dead, 329 wounded and 3 missing. General Banks' troops had totaled nearly 8000 at the start of this clash; he lost 62 men with 243 wounded and 1714 either missing or captured.

May 26th, 1862

After the defeat at Winchester, Banks is forced to move across the Potomac River into Federal territory near Williamsport.

May 29th, 1862

Approximately 4000 Union troops gather near Jackson's Confederates at Harper's Ferry. There is skirmishing at the South Anna River in Virginia, where Federals burn a 500 foot bridge and ultimately capture the nearby town of Ashland.

May 30th, 1862

At Front Royal, Union troops under General Shields occupy the town after a minor clash with General Jackson's retreating Confederates. Jackson is withdrawing from the Harper's Ferry area so as to avoid being cut off by Fremont and McDowell.

May 31st, 1862

Movements by the Confederate General Joe Johnston and McClellan's Army of the Potomac result in a major operation at the battle of Fair Oaks and Seven Pines. This somewhat delayed offensive by Johnston does little to lessen the threat posed to the Richmond Capital. General Johnston is wounded in the battle, prompting Confederate President Jefferson Davis to name General Robert E. Lee as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.