This Week in the Civil War: Feb 25-Mar 3, 1863

Wednesday, February 25.  An international crisis threatened to erupt when U.S.S. Vanderbilt seized the British merchant ship Peterhoff off St. Thomas in the West Indies. Peterhoff was bound for Mexico and suspected of being a Confederate blockade runner. Ironically, the seizure was ordered by the same admiral who had ordered the seizure of a British ship in 1861 that nearly sparked war between the U.S. and Britain.

British officials protested that the U.S. had no right to interfere with trade between Britain and Mexico, even if most of the shipments to Mexican ports were being funneled into the Confederacy. International courts later ruled that the U.S. could not halt the shipping of goods into neutral ports.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the National Currency Act into law, which established a national bank charter system and encouraged development of a uniform national currency. This answered Lincoln’s call for currency reforms, and it was supported by financiers as a means to not only pay for the war, but also to further centralize the economy. Critics argued that this law was an unconstitutional Federal takeover of banks. Supporters viewed this as a necessary wartime measure, even though the Republican Party had actually advocated nationalized banking before the war. The new banking system appealed to private bankers and speculators, who profited as much as industrialists during the war.

Confederate General D.H. Hill assumed command of troops in North Carolina. In Virginia, skirmishing occurred at various points.

Thursday, February 26.  The Cherokee Indian Council repealed its ordinance of secession, abolished slavery, and officially announced its support for the U.S.

Confederate General James Longstreet assumed command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. In Tennessee, Confederate raiders captured a Federal freight train loaded with supplies.

On the Mississippi River, Federals sent an empty coal barge past Vicksburg. The Confederate defenders mistook the barge for an ironclad and destroyed the ship Indianola to prevent its capture.

Friday, February 27.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis called for a national day of fasting and prayer for March 27. Confederate General Sterling Price was ordered to the Trans-Mississippi Department. Skirmishing and scouting occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Saturday, February 28.  In Georgia, the Federal warship U.S.S. Montauk destroyed C.S.S. Nashville on the Ogeechee River, south of Savannah. President Lincoln called for a special Senate session to begin on March 4 to consider numerous appointments and promotions. Skirmishing occurred at Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory.

Sunday, March 1.  President Lincoln conferred with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and military officers regarding appointments and promotions. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Monday, March 2.  The U.S. Senate approved the appointment of four major and nine brigadier generals for the Regular Army, and 40 major and 200 brigadier generals for the volunteers. The Senate dismissed 33 army officers from the service who had been convicted by courts-martial.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri, and a Federal expedition left New Orleans bound for the Rio Grande River.

Tuesday, March 3.  On the last day of the U.S. congressional session, President Lincoln signed several bills into law. These included authorizing the Treasury to seized captured goods in Confederate states, approving loans for the next two years to finance the war, creating the Idaho Territory, allowing the president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and empowering individuals to sue contractors for defrauding the government by selling shoddy war equipment.

Lincoln also signed the controversial Enrollment Act, which required all able-bodied men to register for a military draft. Critics denounced the provisions allowing men to buy their way out of the draft by either paying $300 or hiring a substitute. Only six percent of Federal military personnel were recruited by draft over the course of the war, and two-thirds of these draftees hired substitutes.

In Georgia, an eight-hour Federal bombardment of Fort McAllister below Savannah failed to capture the garrison. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Primary Source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

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