This Week in the Civil War: Apr 1-7, 1863

Wednesday, April 1.  The Confederate armies were reorganized: the Confederate Department of Richmond was created with General Arnold Elzey commanding, the Confederate Department of Southern Virginia was created with General S.G. French commanding, and the Department of North Carolina was created with General D.H. Hill commanding. General Francis J. Heron assumed command of the Federal Department of the Frontier. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Thursday, April 2.  Food shortages and soaring prices led to what became known as the “Richmond bread riot” in the Confederate capital. An angry group of citizens, mostly women, surrounded a wagon demanding food. When their demands were not met, they stormed the city’s business district, smashed store windows and doors, and seized items such as flour, meal, and clothing. Virginia Governor John Letcher dispatched state militia to restore order. Then President Jefferson Davis stood on a wagon, threw the crowd all the money he had, and warned that the troops would open fire if they did not disperse. The crowd finally disbanded with no arrests or injuries.

Davis defended General John C. Pemberton, who was facing criticism for his northern heritage and for allowing the Federals to close in on Vicksburg, Mississippi. Davis stated that “by his judicious imposition of his forces and skillful selection of the best points of defence he has repulsed the enemy at Vicksburg, Port Hudson, on the Tallahatchie and at Deer Creek, and has thus far foiled his every attempt to get possession of the Mississippi river and the vast section of country which it controls.”

President Abraham Lincoln issued orders directing the Treasury secretary to regulate trade with states in rebellion.

Friday, April 3.  President Davis wrote to Arkansas Governor Harris Flanagin that “if we lost control of the Eastern side (of the Mississippi River), the Western must almost inevitably fall into the power of the enemy. The defense of the fortified places on the Eastern bank is therefore regarded as the defense of Arkansas quite as much as that of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.” President Lincoln informed General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Army of the Potomac, that he planned to meet with him in northern Virginia this weekend.

In Pennsylvania, four men were arrested in Reading for allegedly belonging to the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle. Federal expeditions began in western Virginia and Arkansas. In Tennessee, Federal forces destroyed Palmyra in retaliation for an attack on a Federal convoy the previous day.

Saturday, April 4.  In celebration of his son Tad’s 10th birthday, President Lincoln and his entourage steamed down from Washington to visit General Hooker and watch a “grand review” of the Army of the Potomac at Falmouth Heights, Virginia. Off North Carolina, Federal naval forces failed to capture a Confederate battery near Washington. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Louisiana.

Sunday, April 5.  In Virginia, President Lincoln conferred with General Hooker. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Monday, April 6.  In Virginia, President Lincoln wrote a memo in General Hooker’s headquarters stating that “our prime object is the enemies’ army in front of us, and is not with, or about, Richmond…” In Great Britain, the British government seized the Confederate vessel Alexandria while it was being fitted in Liverpool harbor. Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana.

Tuesday, April 7.  Flag Officer Samuel Du Pont led an attack by nine Federal ironclads on the forts in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The ironclads sustained heavy damage from Confederate artillery at Forts Sumter and Moultrie; U.S.S. Keokuk sank the next morning after suffering 91 hits, and four other ships were disabled. The Federal attack was unsuccessful.

In Tennessee, Confederates under General Joseph Wheeler raided the Louisville & Nashville and Nashville & Chattanooga Railroads. In Louisiana, the Federal steamer Barataria was captured by Confederates on the Amite River. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Louisiana.

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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