This Week in the Civil War: June 24-30, 1863

Wednesday, June 24.  In Tennessee, Federal General William S. Rosecrans wired Washington: “The army begins to move at 3 o’clock this morning.” After repeated urgings, Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland began moving out of Murfreesboro to confront General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee at Tullahoma. The Lincoln administration believed that pressing Rosecrans to attack would prevent Bragg from sending reinforcements to break the siege of Vicksburg.

In Mississippi, the situation inside Vicksburg was becoming critical. Federal shelling continued, and the residents suffered from lack of food and other supplies.

Federal General Joseph Hooker wired Washington asking for orders, stating that “I don’t know whether I am standing on my head or feet.” Hooker’s Army of the Potomac was struggling to pursue General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia as it advanced northward into Pennsylvania.

Skirmishing occurred in Maryland, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Thursday, June 25.  Robert E. Lee dispatched his cavalry under General Jeb Stuart to block the movements of the Confederate forces from observation by the pursuing Federals. Stuart instead began a northern raid that handicapped Lee’s army in enemy territory.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to Braxton Bragg and General P.G.T. Beauregard at Charleston, South Carolina pleading for them to send reinforcements to Vicksburg. Davis stated that unless General Joseph E. Johnston was reinforced, “the Missi. (Mississippi River) will be lost.” Johnston’s Confederates tried harassing the Federals laying siege to Vicksburg, but were ineffective.

Friday, June 26.  Joseph Hooker’s Federal forces finally completed crossing the Potomac River in pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s Confederates. It took Hooker eight days to cross the Potomac. The slow pace concerned Lincoln administration officials that Hooker may not be able to stop the Confederates’ northern invasion. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin called for 60,000 volunteers to serve three months to repel the invasion as a portion of Lee’s army under General Jubal Early reached Gettysburg.

Off the Maine coast, the Confederate schooner Archer was destroyed by Federal steamboats and tugboats. Commanded by Lieutenant Charles W. “Savez” Reed, Archer had caused panic in New England by capturing 21 ships, including the Federal revenue cutter Caleb Cushing off Portland, in 19 days. The Federals had dispatched 47 vessels to find and destroy Archer.

Skirmishing occurred in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Louisiana.

Saturday, June 27.  Joseph Hooker submitted his resignation as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Hooker was infuriated by General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck’s order to hold Harpers Ferry and Maryland Heights, believing it compromised his command. To Hooker’s surprise, President Lincoln accepted. Hooker was unaware that Lincoln had been waiting for a reason to relieve him of command ever since his May defeat at Chancellorsville.

In Pennsylvania, Jubal Early’s Confederates captured York.

Sunday, June 28.  At 3 a.m., General George G. Meade, commander of Fifth Corps, was awakened and ordered to take command of the Army of the Potomac. Meade had no choice but to accept the tremendous responsibility and quickly formulate a strategy to stop Robert E. Lee’s northern invasion. By that afternoon, Meade developed a plan: “I must move toward the Susquehanna, keeping Washington and Baltimore well covered, and if the enemy is checked in his attempt to cross the Susquehanna, or if he turns toward Baltimore, give him battle.” President Lincoln approved Meade’s strategy.

When Lee learned that Meade had replaced Hooker, he abandoned plans to attack Harrisburg. Instead, Lee turned back south and began concentrating his Confederates near Gettysburg and Cashtown. At York, Jubal Early’s Confederates seized shoes, clothing, rations, and $28,600. In Virginia, Confederate cavalry under Jeb Stuart skirmished near Fairfax Court House.

In Tennessee, William Rosecrans’s Federals occupied Manchester as part of their Tullahoma Campaign. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Louisiana.

Monday, June 29.  George G. Meade’s Federals moved quickly through Maryland, and General John Buford’s Federal cavalry reached Gettysburg. In Tennessee, heavy skirmishing occurred as part of the Tullahoma Campaign. Other skirmishing occurred in Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

Tuesday, June 30.  In Tennessee, Confederates began evacuating Tullahoma as William S. Rosecrans’s Federals advanced on the town. In Pennsylvania, Robert E. Lee’s Confederates were converging on Gettysburg. President Lincoln rejected panicked pleas to reinstate George B. McClellan to army command during this crucial time. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri 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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