This Week in the Civil War: June 17-23, 1863

Wednesday, June 17.  In Georgia, the Confederate ironclad Atlanta, or Fingal, battled Federal ships Weehawken and Nahant at the mouth of the Wilmington River in Wassaw Sound. Atlanta was ultimately forced to surrender after being hit four times. This was a major loss for the small Confederate navy.

In Mississippi, Federal transports aiding the siege of Vicksburg were attacked by Confederates; this was one of several attacks on Federal shipping during the siege. Skirmishing occurred in Maryland as General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia continued its northward advance. Skirmishing also occurred in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Thursday, June 18.  In Mississippi, Federal General Ulysses S. Grant relieved General John A. McClernand as commander of Thirteenth Corps. McClernand had resented his subordinate status to Grant, arguing that his force should remain independent. Following the failed assaults on Vicksburg in May, McClernand had issued a congratulatory order to his men that disparaged the efforts of other Federal units. This gave Grant the reason he needed to dismiss him.

In Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate cavalry, commanded by General Jeb Stuart, held the approaches to the Blue Ridge. Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina, Missouri, and Louisiana

Friday, June 19.  Robert E. Lee’s leading Confederate corps, commanded by General Richard Ewell, moved north of the Potomac River toward Pennsylvania. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Louisiana.

Saturday, June 20.  President Lincoln issued a proclamation making West Virginia the 35th state. While Virginia voters had supported secession from the Union, voters in the farming and mining areas west of the Alleghenies largely opposed secession. Thus, Lincoln supported West Virginia’s secession from the rest of the state while opposing the southern secession from the rest of the Union.

Sunday, June 21.  At Vicksburg, a Confederate major said, “One day is like another in a besieged city–all you can hear is the rattle of the Enemy’s guns, with the sharp crack of the rifles of their sharp-shooters going from early dawn to dark and then at night the roaring of the terrible mortars is kept up sometimes all this time.” Skirmishing occurred among Robert E. Lee’s advance units in Virginia and Maryland. Skirmishing also occurred in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

Monday, June 22.  In Mississippi, skirmishing occurred around Vicksburg as part of the Federal siege. Also, skirmishing continued among Federals and Robert E. Lee’s advancing Confederates. Confederate raider Charles Read, captaining the captured Federal vessel Tacony, seized five Federal schooners.

Tuesday, June 23.  In Tennessee, General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland at Murfreesboro opposed General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee at Tullahoma. The Lincoln administration had been urging Rosecrans to attack, believing that this would prevent Bragg from sending reinforcements to Vicksburg. General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck finally wired Rosecrans: “I deem it my duty to repeat to you the great dissatisfaction felt here at your inactivity… Is it your intention to make an immediate move forward?” After several months of planning, Rosecrans resolved to begin advancing tomorrow.

In Louisiana, a skirmish at Brashear City resulted in the surrender of 1,000 Federals. In Virginia, General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, considered crossing the Potomac River in pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s Confederates. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Mississippi, Missouri, and the Nebraska Territory.

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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