United States and American History: Early 1862 & the Civil War

About the history of the United States in early 1862, the Civil War, Matthew Brady war photographer, the battle of the ironclads Monitor and Merrimac.


--A 23-year-old enterpreneur invested $4,000 of his life savings in an oil refining venture. His name: John D. Rockefeller.

--The Morrill Land Grant Act gave each State 30,000 acres per congressman to be used to create colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts. Sixty-nine land-grant colleges were established on 13 million acres.

--Mathew Brady began to photograph the Civil War. Wealthy before it began, Brady ruined himself financially, spending $100,000 of his own funds for the effort. He followed the armies in a cumbersome, black wagon he named the "What-is-it," because this question was continually asked by curious soldiers. Many of his most striking photographs were made by riding to the battle scene with the wagons sent to collect the dead and wounded.

Brady and his assistants used large box cameras mounted on tripods. For processing, his wet-glass, collodion-coated plates required immersion in one chemical bath, after exposure, followed by immediate transfer to the developing solution.

Feb. 10 "Gen. Tom Thumb," P. T. Barnum's 2'5" midget, married Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump at Grace Church, New York City. It was the 1st marriage for both. (See also: Tom Thumb in Footnote People in U.S. History, Chap. 3.)

Mar. 9 Two armored warships, the Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia (formerly known as the Union's Merrimac), fought to a draw off Hampton Roads, Va. The designer of the Monitor, a Swedish immigrant named John Ericsson, 1st submitted his unusual design to the Navy Dept. in 1861. He was told to "take it home and worship it," because the idea was like nothing that had ever been seen before. Wiser heads prevailed, and a $275,000 contract was awarded to build the armor-plated raft. A sum of $5,000 was paid to Theodore Timby, who held a patent on a fast-revolving gun turret that Ericsson incorporated for the ship. There were at least 40 other design features that were patentable.

Crew members on the Virginia, returning to finish off the grounded Minnesota, had found what they took to be a "floating water tank" alongside. When the "tank" ran up the Union flag, the Virginia fired a full broadside at the strange object. Most of the shots missed the target entirely, but a few struck its flat deck, skipping off in a shower of sparks. The Monitor's circular turret then spun around, bringing twin guns to bear. A shot hit the Virginia's iron-plated side so hard that over 100 sailors standing behind it were knocked flat, their ears and noses bleeding profusely from the concussion.

The 2 vessels slugged it out for 4 hours without a winner being declared.

The 2 ironclads met again on April 11, but no action occurred. They both had orders to stand clear of each other, and to shoot only if fired upon. Neither the Union nor the Confederacy wanted to risk the loss of its only ironclad a 2nd time.

The Virginia was scuttled by its crew in May, 1862. The Monitor, caught by a hurricane off the Carolina coast on December 31, 1862, went to the bottom with all hands. In July of 1974, a team of divers finally located the sunken Monitor, lying upside down in 220' of water about 15 mi. SW of Cape Hatteras, N.C., but it was not raised.

Apr. 6-7 Milestone Battle: Shiloh, Tenn. Of the 77,000 men who took part on both sides, over 60,000 were raw recruits who had to be shown how to use their rifles. Said one Union private, detailed to instruct his comrades on the line of battle: "It's just like shooting squirrels, only these squirrels have guns ..."

The inexperienced troops took heavy losses on the 1st day, with 1/3 of Grant's command put out of action, and the rest demoralized. Asked if he planned to retreat, Grant replied, "No! I propose to attack at dawn and whip them." He did, breaking down the back door into the Confederacy.

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