November 6, 1864 (1)

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Telegram Sent on: November 6, 1864.
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Office US Military Telegraph

Washington D.C.

November 6, 1864

Hon. W.H. Seward,

Nothing of much importance. Day-before-yesterday rebels destroyed

two more of our wooden gun-boats, at Johnsonville,

on Tennessee River. Curtis, on the 4th., was at Fayetteville, Ark.

still pursuing and damaging Price. Richmond papers say Yankees

landed at Escambia Bay, below Hilton (not far from Mobile)

captured fifty men, and destroyed all camp

equipage, wagons Saltworks, &c and every thing in and about Hilton.

Richmond papers also confirm the destruction of the Albemarle & the

consequent evacuation of Plymouth N.C.

A. Lincoln

82 chg Ex Man

no 3r

rec'd 11 a

sent 11:37 Am

by Z

Historical analysis

This analysis makes use of a heuristic for historical thinking know as SCIM-C developed by David Hicks, Peter Doolittle and Tom Ewing. For more about this historical thinking heuristic please see

Summary of the telegram

This telegram concerns immediate news about naval operations in November of 1864. In the telegram, Lincoln informed with his Secretary of State, W.H. Seward about specific actions in Johnsonville, Tennessee, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Escambia Bay, Alabama, and Plymouth, North Carolina. Lincoln mentioned the destruction of two Union boats. He wrote about the success of Northern troops invading Confederate camps at Escambia Bay, an area along the boarder between Florida and Alabama. Lincoln refered to Richmond papers for this information. He also refered to the Richmond papers when for a report on the sinking of the Albermarle, a Confederate war ship. [1]

The Context for this telegram

This telegram points to naval activities, an issue not usually thought of when the Civil War is discussed. Civil War ships on both sides played a significant role in the war. [2] Naval attacks were primarily fought on Southern rivers and on the Southern coastline. [3]. The two Union boats Lincoln mentioned were at Confederate camps at Escambia Bay, an area lying near the boarder between Florida and Alabama. [4].

In sum, the telegram reports on four military actions.

The destruction of two wooden gun boats in Johnsonville, Tennessee that was mentioned by Lincoln was part of the BAttle of Johnsonville, which was fought November 4-5, 1864. [5]

The action mentioned by Lincoln that was taking place in Arkansas was part of the aftermath of Price's Raid, which was a two month cavalry raid by Confederate troops in Missouri and Kansas led by Confederate Major General Sterling Price. [6]

The Escambia Bay action that Lincoln discussed came on the heals of the decisive Union victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay where Union troops captured Mobile, the last significant port city held by Confederate forces. [7]

The Union victory that Lincoln mentioned in North Carolina was particularly significant. The Confederate ironclad warship "CSS Albemarle" was destroyed on October 27, 1864 while moored at a dock in Plymouth. The Albemarle had played a significant role in the war as Confederate troops harassed Union troops in the area. The Union controlled the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds around Plymouth for much of the war. With the destruction of the ironclad ship the Albermarle, Union forces for the most part eliminated the last of Confederate resistance. The geographical importance of Plymouth at the mouth of the Roanoke River was critical. [8] Union forces wanted to move upriver and capture the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad line passing through Weldon, North Carolina, which would cut off the major supply line for General Robert E. Lee's army in Virginia from southerly ports. This would essentially end all material support for Lee's forces and force a retreat from Virginia. Fort Branch, located upriver at Hamilton, successfully blocked the Union gunboats and troops sailing upstream from Plymouth at the river bend called Rainbow Branch in an attempt to push upriver to Weldon. [9].

Inferences about the telegram

Lincoln's apparent nonchalant attitude toward the naval happenings between Union and Confederate forces is noteworthy. It was Lincoln who ordered the Union blockade. His decision makes it seems obvious he saw the waterways as means to weaken the South. But in this particular telegram, he starts off stating, "Nothing of much importance." It seems the destruction of the Albermarle would have been an event to merit some expression of celebration. Another interesting aspect of this telegram is Lincoln's apparent use of Richmond newspapers as a source of information. While the use of the telegraph was increasing, it appears Lincoln was still using other sources to inform him of the happenings of the War.


  1. The text of this telegram is available here from the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol 7 CWAL along with the following note -"."
  4. For more see
  5. For more see
  6. For more see's_Raid
  7. For more see]
  8. For more on the area see,_North_Carolina

This page was edited by Ashley Short