This Week in the Civil War: May 27-Jun 2, 1863

Wednesday, May 27.  In Louisiana, a massed Federal assault on Port Hudson failed, as the attackers became tangled in underbrush and fallen timbers. The Confederates held a strong position atop a bluff that commanded both the land and river approaches to Port Hudson. Federal commander Nathaniel Banks decided to place Port Hudson under siege.

President Abraham Lincoln wired General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac in northern Virginia, and General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Federal Army of the Cumberland at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to provide information about their movements.

Confederate cannon at Vicksburg shelled Federal gunboats on the Mississippi River, sinking Cincinnati and killing 40 men. C.S.S. Chattahoochee accidentally exploded on the Chattahoochee River, killing 18. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

Thursday, May 28.  The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment left Boston for Hilton Head, South Carolina as the first black regiment sent south. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and the Indian Territory.

Friday, May 29.  President Lincoln refused General Ambrose Burnside’s offer to resign as commander of the Department of the Ohio. Burnside had drawn heavy criticism by arresting former Congressman Clement Vallandigham for speaking out against the war. Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton had denounced Burnside’s actions because they increased anti-war sentiment in the North.

Saturday, May 30.  General Robert E. Lee divided the Army of Northern Virginia into three corps: First Corps was commanded by General James Longstreet, Second Corps (formerly “Stonewall” Jackson’s command) was commanded by General Richard Ewell, and Third Corps was commanded by General A.P. Hill.

In New Jersey, Democrats met at Newark to protest the arrest of Clement Vallandigham. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas.

Sunday, May 31.  In Richmond, Robert E. Lee met with Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet. To relieve the pressure caused by Ulysses S. Grant’s relentless assault on Vicksburg in the West, Lee proposed a second invasion of the North. This would allow Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to feed off the rich northern farmlands and potentially force Grant to send troops east to stop the advance. Davis was uncertain, and some cabinet members believed that Lee should instead send troops west to relieve Vicksburg.

Davis also discussed the Western Theater with Lee, saying, “Genl. Johnston did not, as you thought advisable, attack Grant promptly, and I fear the result is that which you anticipated if time was given.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and South Carolina.

Monday, June 1.  In Richmond, Jefferson Davis and his cabinet voted five-to-one in favor of approving Robert E. Lee’s plan to invade the North.

Ambrose Burnside issued a general order: “On account of the repeated expression of disloyal and incendiary sentiments, the publication of the newspaper known as the Chicago Times is hereby suppressed.” This order outraged many northerners, especially since it came so soon after Burnside’s controversial arrest of Clement Vallandigham. Chicago leaders appealed to President Lincoln to rescind Burnside’s order.

Federals heavily bombarded the besieged Confederates at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Tuesday, June 2.  President Lincoln wired General Ulysses S. Grant, commanding the Federals at Vicksburg, “Are you in communication with Gen. Banks? Is he coming toward you, or going further off?” Lincoln wanted the two armies to link rather than conduct separate operations at Vicksburg and Port Hudson.

Having been banished to the South, Clement Vallandigham was sent to Wilmington, North Carolina by President Davis and put under guard as an “alien enemy.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

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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