This Week in the Civil War: Jun 3-9, 1863

Wednesday, June 3.  General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia began moving west out of Fredericksburg, beginning what would become Lee’s second invasion of the North. The Federal Ninth Corps was transferred from Kentucky to reinforce General Ulysses S. Grant’s forces laying siege to Vicksburg, Mississippi.

In New York City, Mayor Fernando Wood and other Democrats met at the Cooper Institute to call for peace. In South Carolina, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first Federal black regiment, arrived at Port Royal. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Thursday, June 4.  In Virginia, two corps of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army moved out of Fredericksburg. Upon President Abraham Lincoln’s suggestion, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton revoked General Ambrose Burnside’s order closing down the Chicago Times; the Times had been suppressed for publishing “disloyal and incendiary statements.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

Friday, June 5.  In Virginia, General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, exchanged wires with President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck about Robert E. Lee’s movement. Hooker wanted to attack Lee’s remaining Confederates at Fredericksburg, while Lincoln and Halleck wanted Hooker to attack Lee’s forces moving west.

Saturday, June 6.  In Virginia, General Jeb Stuart, commanding Robert E. Lee’s Confederate cavalry, staged a grand review for Lee and other top Confederate officers, dignitaries, and ladies near Culpeper. The review raised noise and dust that was spotted by the Federals.

President Lincoln expressed concern about delayed telegrams from Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, and the Indian Territory.

Sunday, June 7.  In Mississippi, a Confederate attack at Milliken’s Bend was repulsed, and Federals captured and burned Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s plantation, Brierfield. These actions helped to slowly strangle Vicksburg into submission. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Kentucky.

Monday, June 8.  In Mississippi, the punishing Federal siege of Vicksburg continued. A resident wrote of the endless artillery bombardment, “Twenty-four hours of each day these preachers of the Union made their touching remarks to the town. All night long their deadly hail of iron dropped through roofs and tore up the deserted and denuded streets.” Residents moved into caves on the town’s hillsides for refuge. Supplies dwindled and hungry people resorted to eating mules, dogs, cats, and rats.

In Virginia, Jeb Stuart staged another grand cavalry review for top Confederate officials that attracted Federal attention. Joseph Hooker dispatched cavalry and infantry under General Alfred Pleasonton to “disperse and destroy the enemy force.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas.

Tuesday, June 9.  In Virginia, the Battle of Brandy Station occurred as Alfred Pleasonton’s Federals attacked Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry along the Rappahannock River, north of Culpeper. The lines surged back and forth for nearly 12 hours. Surprised by the attack, Stuart barely held off the Federals until Pleasonton finally withdrew. Although this was a Confederate victory, the battle proved that the Federal cavalrymen had become effective fighters. This bolstered Federal confidence and indicated to Joseph Hooker that the Confederates were moving north.

A powder magazine explosion killed 20 Federals and wounded 14 in Alexandria, Virginia. In Tennessee, two soldiers were hanged by Federals as spies. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, 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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