This Week in the Civil War: Mar 18-24, 1863

Wednesday, March 18.  Confederate commissioner John Slidell and representatives of Emile Erlanger, head of France’s most influential bank, negotiated a loan to the Confederacy for $15 million to help finance the war. The loan was secured by the Confederate sale of 20-year war bonds that could be exchanged for cotton, the South’s most lucrative commodity. The cotton was to be sold to bondholders at 12 cents per pound when the market rate was 21 cents per pound. Some Confederate officials noted the enormous profit margin and accused Erlanger of extortion, but they were desperate for money so the loan was approved.

President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Congressman Henry Winter Davis of Maryland: “Let the friends of the government first save the government, then administer it to their own liking.” General Theophilus H. Holmes assumed command of the Confederate District of Arkansas.

Thursday, March 19.  In the South, the first bond sales on the new Erlanger loan took place. Initial sales were successful, but Federal agents in Europe spread rumors that Confederate securities were a poor risk and bid up the cost of war supplies so high that the Confederates could not afford to buy them. Many investors were ruined, Erlanger cleared $6 million in commissions, and the Confederacy was left with $9 million to pay for war.

On the Mississippi River, the Federal ships Hartford and Albatross under command of Flag Officer David G. Farragut passed the batteries at Grand Gulf, just south of Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

Friday, March 20.  Federal General Stephen A. Hurlbut informed President Lincoln of all the unsuccessful attempts to attack Vicksburg thus far. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Florida.

Saturday, March 21.  On the Mississippi River, Farragut’s Federal ships anchored below Vicksburg. Confederate sharpshooters harassed General William T. Sherman’s Federals at Steele’s Bayou. In Tennessee, Confederate guerrillas attacked a train traveling from Bolivar to Grand Junction.

In Louisiana, one Federal expedition left New Orleans for Ponchatoula, and another left Bonnet Carre for the Amite River. Federal General Edwin Sumner died; he had fought admirably on the Virginia Peninsula and at Antietam last year.

Sunday, March 22.  In Kentucky, Confederate under John Pegram began operations, while part of John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate force attempted to capture a Federal garrison at Mount Sterling. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Monday, March 23.  The Confederate Congress authorized funding Treasury notes issued previous to December 1, 1862 and further issuance of Treasury notes for not less than $5 or more than $50 each.

President Lincoln wrote to New York Governor Horatio Seymour, a Democratic opponent of his administration, that “there can not be a difference of purpose between you and me. If we should differ as to the means, it is important that such difference should be as small as possible–that it should not be enhanced by unjust suspicions on one side or the other.”

In Florida, Federal forces operated near Jacksonville. On the Mississippi River, Farragut’s Federal ships attacked Confederate batteries at Warrenton, below Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Tuesday, March 24.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals were stopped in their struggles north of Vicksburg in a skirmish at Black’s Bayou. This convinced Sherman to abandon the futile effort to reach Vicksburg through the maze of marshes and swamps north of the stronghold. Sherman’s withdrawal ended a series of unsuccessful efforts to attack Vicksburg from the north, and General Ulysses S. Grant began formulating a new plan of attack.

Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida. In Arkansas, Federal scouts began operating near Fayetteville.

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

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