In the history known, remembered, and studied by people during the Civil War, the significance of this date traced back to the midnight riders and assembled militia at Lexington and Concord (Massachusetts) who opposed the British troops. “The shot heard ’round the world” still reverberated deeply in American memory in the mid-19th Century. The ideal of patriots inspired the generation that enlisted during the Civil War with both sides taking examples from the defense of home, creation of freedom, and memory of historic figures already looming larger than life in the American mind.
In the history that the Civil War generation was creating, April 19 had marked several historic moments.
First, Winfield Scott—the long-time U.S. General with a reputation stretching back into the early part of the century—introduced his signature plan that would become part of the Union’s strategic planning. The Anaconda Plan went into action on April 19, 1861, starting the strangulation of the seceded Southern states by controlling the coast and interior water routes to cut off supplies and divide the states from each other. President Lincoln ordered the blockade to commence. Arguably, just five days after Fort Sumter’s surrender, the plan had been enacted that would eventually cripple the Confederacy. Yes, the armies were forming and four years of fighting lay ahead, but by taking early measures to reduce (in principle and later practice) the Confederacy’s contact with the outside world for communication, diplomacy, and supplies a key step toward ending the war had been started.
Second, volunteer soldiers for the Union came under attack from Southern-supporting civilians in Baltimore on April 19, 1861. The 6th Massachusetts had reached the Maryland city and had to march through streets as they changed railroad lines. A mob of civilians attacked the regiment, throwing bricks and other projectiles. The soldiers had been ordered not to fire into the crowd, but a few shots were aimed and fired as the situation grew more dangerous. In the end, the regiment made it to their destination, but four soldiers died of injuries and approximately three dozen were seriously hurt. (It’s not clear how many civilians were injured in the conflict.) Although not a battle between two military forces, the Baltimore Riot & Attack is sometimes considered the first bloodshed in conflict during the Civil War.
I’m not sure if I entirely agree with the “first bloodshed” view since I’m also reconsidering if I think Fort Sumter or another event best marks the beginning of the war, but the Baltimore Riot does accurately represent the idea of “Civil War” that puts countrymen against each other.
April 19 – Lexington and Concord of 1775 had inspired the “minute men” of 1861 in the 6th Massachusetts who marched through violent streets of civil conflict on their journey to Washington City where Lincoln had already the Anaconda Plan into effect.
It’s a pivotal day in U.S. History with events loosely chained together and influencing each other.