This Week in the Civil War: July 15-21, 1863

Wednesday, July 15.  In Ohio, General John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates continued moving east of Cincinnati toward the Ohio River as Federals pursued. In Virginia, General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia slowly moved south up the Shenandoah Valley. In Mississippi, General William T. Sherman’s Federals increased pressure on Confederates under General Joseph E. Johnston at the state capital of Jackson.

President Lincoln issued a proclamation designating August 6 as a day of praise, prayer, and thanksgiving for the recent military victories. To Confederate General Theophilus H. Holmes in the Trans-Mississippi Department, President Jefferson Davis confided, “The clouds are truly dark over us.”

In New York City, order was gradually being restored after three days of violent rioting. In Kentucky, Federals occupied Hickman. Skirmishing occurred in West Virginia and Tennessee.

Thursday, July 16.  U.S.S. Wyoming Captain James S. McDougal destroyed Japanese batteries in the Straits of Shimonoseki after learning that Japan was expelling foreigners and closing the Straits. Wyoming had stopped at Yokohama during her search for famed Confederate commerce raider C.S.S. Alabama. This was the first naval battle between the U.S. and Japan, and an international naval squadron later forced Japan to reopen the Straits.

In Mississippi, Joseph E. Johnston abandoned Jackson to William T. Sherman’s Federals after being outnumbered and outmaneuvered. On the South Carolina coast, Federal army and navy forces repulsed a Confederate assault near Grimball’s Landing on James Island. In Louisiana, the steamer Imperial became the first Federal vessel to successfully travel down the Mississippi River from St. Louis to New Orleans in over two years.

In Virginia, Robert E. Lee wrote to Jefferson Davis, “The men are in good health and spirits, but want shoes and clothing badly… As soon as these necessary articles are obtained, we shall be prepared to resume operations.” Skirmishing occurred in West Virginia, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Friday, July 17.  In Ohio, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates met stiff Federal resistance near Hamden and Berlin as they continued trying to reach the Ohio River. In Virginia, a cavalry skirmish occurred at Wytheville. Other skirmishing occurred in West Virginia, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

In the Indian Territory, General James G. Blunt’s Federals attacked Confederates under General Douglas H. Cooper in the largest engagement in the region. The Confederates withdrew due to lack of ammunition in a battle that featured black Federals opposing Confederate Indians.

Saturday, July 18.  On the South Carolina coast, Federals continued efforts to capture Charleston. The harbor was pummeled by artillery before about 6,000 Federals launched a frontal attack on Fort Wagner on the south end of Morris Island. Leading the assault was the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry regiment. A portion of the Confederate earthworks was temporarily captured, but the attack was ultimately repulsed with heavy losses. This Federal defeat proved that Charleston could not be taken by a joint Army-Navy force without first conducting a siege. Despite the defeat, this effort earned fame for the 54th and legitimized the role of blacks as U.S. soldiers.

In Ohio, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates were becoming desperate due to relentless Federal pursuit and pressure. They reached Buffington on the Ohio River, but it was guarded by Federals and Morgan had to wait until next morning to try crossing back into Kentucky.

In Indiana, George W.L. Bickley, a leader of the Knights of the Golden Circle, was arrested. President Lincoln commuted several sentences for soldiers found guilty of various crimes.

President Davis called for enrollment in the Confederate army those coming under jurisdiction of the Conscription Act. General John G. Foster assumed command of the Federal Department of Virginia and North Carolina, and General John A. Dix assumed command of the Federal Department of the East. Skirmishing occurred in West Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the New Mexico Territory.

Sunday, July 19.  In Ohio, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates attacked Buffington in an effort to cross the Ohio River, but Federals repulsed them. The Confederates suffered over 800 casualties, including 700 captured. Morgan’s remaining 300 men continued along the Ohio toward Pennsylvania.

General George G. Meade’s Federal Army of the Potomac completed crossing the Potomac River into Virginia in their pursuit of Robert E. Lee. General D.H. Hill replaced General William Hardee as commander of Second Corps in General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and the New Mexico Territory.

Monday, July 20.  In Ohio, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates skirmished near Hockingport as they turned northward away from the Ohio River. In Virginia, skirmishing occurred between George G. Meade’s Federals and Robert E. Lee’s Confederates.

On the South Carolina coast, Federal naval forces bombarded Legare’s Point on James Island. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and the Indian Territory.

The Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce expelled 33 members for refusing to take an oath of allegiance. New York merchants gathered to organize relief efforts for black victims of the draft riots.

Tuesday, July 21.  In Virginia, skirmishing continued between George G. Meade’s Federals and Robert E. Lee’s Confederates. President Lincoln wrote to General O.O. Howard describing George G. Meade “as a brave and skillful officer, and a true man.” Lincoln directed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to renew vigorous efforts to raise black troops along the Mississippi River.

President Davis wrote to Robert E. Lee expressing concern over the defeat at Gettysburg and the Federal threat to Charleston, South Carolina. General John D. Imboden was given command of the Confederate Valley District. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina.

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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