On this day 30 October American Civil war


Mi General
MI.Net Member
Feb 29, 2004
1862 Ormsby MacKnight Mitchell dies

Union General Ormsby MacKnight Mitchell, commander of the Department of the South, dies at Beaufort, South Carolina.

Born in Kentucky in 1809, Mitchell grew up in Lebanon, Ohio. He attended West Point and graduated in 1829 along with future Confederate leaders Joseph Johnston and Robert E. Lee. He excelled at mathematics and graduated 15th out of a class of 56 cadets. Mitchell taught at West Point before becoming a surveyor on the Pennsylvania and Ohio Railroad. He served another stint in the military when he went to St. Augustine, Florida, but he found his true calling when he accepted a professorship at Cincinnati College in 1836. He soon gained wide acclaim as a lecturer on astronomy. His lecture tours in the United States and Europe helped fund the Cincinnati Observatory, which he directed when it opened in 1845.

When the war erupted in 1861, Mitchell used his West Point education as a brigadier general in the Army of the Ohio under General Don Carlos Buell and participated in operations in Kentucky and Tennessee in 1862. Mitchell also directed raids into northern Alabama, capturing Huntsville in April 1862. Mitchell was a critic of the "soft war," or limited approach, of many northern generals, and his actions made him a target of conservative northern newspapers. Advocating a tougher stance against Southern civilians and the institution of slavery, he confiscated the property of prominent Confederates and protected slaves who escaped to his lines well before the practice was mandated by Federal policy.

In July 1862 he was named commander of the Department of the South. He moved to headquarters on the Sea Islands of South Carolina, where he oversaw the building of schools and homes for slaves in the captured territory. This movement, begun by his predecessor, General David Hunter, is considered the first experiment in the reconstruction of the South. However, Mitchell's death from yellow fever cut short his participation in the experiment.

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