Some 4,000 Union fighters led by Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick and Col. Ulric Dahlgren conducted a brazen raid on Richmond, Va., capital of the Confederacy, this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. Hundreds of cavalry at the head of the Union force opened the way while columns coming from behind ripped up the tracks of the Virginia Central Railroad as they headed south to the James River. The raiders led by Kilpatrick reached the outskirts of Richmond on March 1, 1864, and there fierce skirmishing erupted near the city's defenses. But when Dahlgren's reinforcements failed to arrive in time, the Kilpatrick raiders were compelled to retreat by Confederate cavalry. Dahlgren's cavalry couldn't penetrate the city either, owing to the opposition, and thus withdrew northward only to be ambushed by Confederate enemies. Dahlgren was killed and many of his unit captured.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, March 9: Ulysses S. Grant takes command of all Union armies.
On March 10, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed papers promoting Maj. General Ulysses S. Grant to the rank of lieutenant general of the U.S. Army, formally handing Grant command over the entire Union army. The promotion by Lincoln allowed a key distinction that Grant was in charge as general-in-chief of the armies of the United States. By this time in the Civil War, Grant had won fame for victories in western Tennessee and triumph at Vicksburg, Miss., cutting the Confederacy in two. The Union victories around the same time in July 1863 at Vicksburg and Gettysburg would mark a turning point in the war. In the weeks ahead, Grant would send forces to drive through the South while he sought to crush Confederate Robert E. Lee's forces with the Union's Army of the Potomac. The New York Times, in reporting March 15 on the promotion of Grant, said the Army of the Potomac was expected to be reorganized for fighting ahead by being remade into three corps. "The country will look anxiously for speedy and happy results as the consequence of these fundamental changes in command," the newspaper said.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, March 16: Freedom for African-Americans in Louisiana.
The New York Times reported on March 21 that African-Americans freed from the yoke of slavery by federal forces in control of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana consituted a "new success" for the Union government. The Times noted that many of those liberated by the advance of the federal army could not read or write previously. But in New Orleans alone, some 1,900 young African-Americans were already attending day schools and learning both reading and writing. The Times added that adults freed by the Union had also begun finding paid work. "Facts furnish the best proof of the success of any system; and, when we compare the condition of fifty thousand negroes in this State last year with their condition now, we need hardly allude to a thousand particulars," The Times said.