This Week in the Civil War: Mar 11-17, 1863

Wednesday, March 11.  In Mississippi, Confederates blocked Federal gunboats from advancing on Vicksburg. The Confederates had quickly built Fort Pemberton out of earth and cotton bales, and they stopped the Federal effort to attack Vicksburg via the Yazoo River to the north.

Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky. In Baltimore, a Federal commander prohibited the sale of pictures of Confederate military and political leaders.

Thursday, March 12.  In Tennessee, a Federal expedition on the Duck River returned to Franklin. A Federal expedition in western Virginia began.

Friday, March 13.  In Mississippi, the Confederates at Fort Pemberton held firm against Federal gunboat attacks. In Richmond, an explosion caused by the accidental ignition of a friction primer killed or wounded 69 people at the Confederate Ordnance Laboratory; casualties included 62 women. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Saturday, March 14.  On the Mississippi River, a Federal naval squadron led by Flag Officer David G. Farragut attempted to pass the Confederate batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana. Federal troops under General Nathaniel Banks attempted to create a diversion to allow the ships to pass, but the vessels were pummeled by Confederate artillery. Only three of the seven ships managed to run the gauntlet and land between Port Hudson and Vicksburg. This proved that capturing Port Hudson would be more difficult for the Federals than anticipated.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Sunday, March 15.  In San Francisco, Federal authorities seized the ship J.M. Chapman as it was about to leave port allegedly carrying 20 secessionists and six cannons. In North Carolina, the British ship Britannia successfully ran the Federal blockade at Wilmington, even though the blockade was growing stronger. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Monday, March 16.  In Mississippi, General William T. Sherman and 11 Federal gunboats tried advancing through the twisting waterways from the Yazoo River to Steele’s Bayou, north of Vicksburg. However, Confederate obstructions in the water made progress virtually impossible.

In Tennessee, a Federal expedition from Jackson to Trenton began.

Tuesday, March 17.  In Virginia, the Battle of Kelly’s Ford occurred when Federal cavalry under General William Averell crossed the Rappahannock River to push Confederates away from Culpeper. In the first large-scale battle for the new Federal cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac, the Federals were repulsed after hard combat. However, they showed unprecedented fighting spirit. Moreover, the Confederate victory was tempered by the loss of rising star Major John Pelham, who was killed in action.

President Abraham Lincoln responded to a letter from General William Rosecrans complaining that the government was not supporting his efforts in Tenneseee, ”… you wrong both yourself and us, when you even suspect there is not the best disposition on the part of us all here to oblige you.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia.

Primary source: The Civil War Day-by-Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Mar 4-10, 1863

Wednesday, March 4.  In Tennessee, Federal forces were surrounded by Confederates under Generals Earl Van Dorn and Nathan Bedford Forrest at Spring Hill. The cavalry escaped, but the infantry was captured the next day. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Thursday, March 5.  In Mississippi, Federal troops under General Ulysses S. Grant continued digging a canal to approach Vicksburg through the swamps north of the city; they were fired on by occasional Confederate artillery. In Ohio, Federal troops attacked the headquarters of Crisis, a pro-southern newspaper in Columbus. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri and Arkansas.

Friday, March 6.  Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas, and a Federal expedition began from New Berne to Trenton and Swansborough in North Carolina.

Saturday, March 7.  The Federal military commander of Baltimore prohibited the sale of “secession music” and ordered the confiscation of various song sheets. The commander also prohibited the sale of pictures of Confederate generals and politicians.

In Louisiana, General Nathaniel Banks and 12,000 Federals began moving north from New Orleans in an effort to capture Port Hudson on the Mississippi River. Port Hudson prevented Federal gunboats in New Orleans from moving upriver and protected the Red River which the Confederates used to connect to the West. Banks planned to feign an attack on Port Hudson while Federal gunboats moved past the stronghold to isolate it from the north.

General Edmund Kirby Smith assumed command of all Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, western Virginia, and North Carolina.

Sunday, March 8. In Virginia, Captain John S. Mosby and 29 Confederate raiders attacked Fairfax County Court House and captured Federal troops and supplies. The captured troops included General E.H. Stoughton, who had been assigned to stop Mosby, along with two captains and 38 others. The captured supplies included 58 horses, along with arms and equipment. The southern press celebrated Mosby’s daring raid.

A Federal expedition began from La Grange and Collierville to Covington in Tennessee. Skirmishing occurred at New Berne, North Carolina.

Monday, March 9.  On the Misssissippi River, Federal forces sent another “Quaker” boat, or fake ironclad, past Vicksburg; it was constructed from logs and pork barrels. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Louisiana, Virginia, and Florida. A Federal expedition began from Bloomfield, Missouri to Chalk Bluff, Arkansas. Another Federal reconnaissance began from Salem to Versailles in Tennessee.

Tuesday, March 10.  President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation granting amnesty to soldiers who had deserted the ranks if they voluntarily returned to their units by April 1; otherwise they would be prosecuted as deserters.

In Florida, Federal troops occupied Jacksonville. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and Tennessee. A Federal reconnaissance began from La Fayette to Moscow in Tennessee. Confederate President Jefferson Davis questioned General John C. Pemberton about Federal efforts to capture Vicksburg.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Feb 25-Mar 3, 1863

Wednesday, February 25.  An international crisis threatened to erupt when U.S.S. Vanderbilt seized the British merchant ship Peterhoff off St. Thomas in the West Indies. Peterhoff was bound for Mexico and suspected of being a Confederate blockade runner. Ironically, the seizure was ordered by the same admiral who had ordered the seizure of a British ship in 1861 that nearly sparked war between the U.S. and Britain.

British officials protested that the U.S. had no right to interfere with trade between Britain and Mexico, even if most of the shipments to Mexican ports were being funneled into the Confederacy. International courts later ruled that the U.S. could not halt the shipping of goods into neutral ports.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the National Currency Act into law, which established a national bank charter system and encouraged development of a uniform national currency. This answered Lincoln’s call for currency reforms, and it was supported by financiers as a means to not only pay for the war, but also to further centralize the economy. Critics argued that this law was an unconstitutional Federal takeover of banks. Supporters viewed this as a necessary wartime measure, even though the Republican Party had actually advocated nationalized banking before the war. The new banking system appealed to private bankers and speculators, who profited as much as industrialists during the war.

Confederate General D.H. Hill assumed command of troops in North Carolina. In Virginia, skirmishing occurred at various points.

Thursday, February 26.  The Cherokee Indian Council repealed its ordinance of secession, abolished slavery, and officially announced its support for the U.S.

Confederate General James Longstreet assumed command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. In Tennessee, Confederate raiders captured a Federal freight train loaded with supplies.

On the Mississippi River, Federals sent an empty coal barge past Vicksburg. The Confederate defenders mistook the barge for an ironclad and destroyed the ship Indianola to prevent its capture.

Friday, February 27.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis called for a national day of fasting and prayer for March 27. Confederate General Sterling Price was ordered to the Trans-Mississippi Department. Skirmishing and scouting occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Saturday, February 28.  In Georgia, the Federal warship U.S.S. Montauk destroyed C.S.S. Nashville on the Ogeechee River, south of Savannah. President Lincoln called for a special Senate session to begin on March 4 to consider numerous appointments and promotions. Skirmishing occurred at Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory.

Sunday, March 1.  President Lincoln conferred with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and military officers regarding appointments and promotions. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Monday, March 2.  The U.S. Senate approved the appointment of four major and nine brigadier generals for the Regular Army, and 40 major and 200 brigadier generals for the volunteers. The Senate dismissed 33 army officers from the service who had been convicted by courts-martial.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri, and a Federal expedition left New Orleans bound for the Rio Grande River.

Tuesday, March 3.  On the last day of the U.S. congressional session, President Lincoln signed several bills into law. These included authorizing the Treasury to seized captured goods in Confederate states, approving loans for the next two years to finance the war, creating the Idaho Territory, allowing the president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and empowering individuals to sue contractors for defrauding the government by selling shoddy war equipment.

Lincoln also signed the controversial Enrollment Act, which required all able-bodied men to register for a military draft. Critics denounced the provisions allowing men to buy their way out of the draft by either paying $300 or hiring a substitute. Only six percent of Federal military personnel were recruited by draft over the course of the war, and two-thirds of these draftees hired substitutes.

In Georgia, an eight-hour Federal bombardment of Fort McAllister below Savannah failed to capture the garrison. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Primary Source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Feb 11-17, 1863

Wednesday, February 11.  In Great Britain, Confederate envoy James Mason addressed a Lord Mayor’s banquet in London to push for British assistance.

Thursday, February 12.  On the Red River, the Federal gunboat Queen of the West destroyed Confederate wagons and supplies. On the White River in Arkansas, U.S.S. Conestoga captured two Confederate steamers. In the West Indies, the commerce raider C.S.S. Florida captured a clipper and cargo valued at $2 million.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and North Carolina.

Friday, February 13.  On the Mississippi River, the Federal gunboat Indianola under Lieutenant Commander George Brown passed the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg with two barges unharmed.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Saturday, February 14.  After veering down the Red River, the Federal gunboat Queen of the West destroyed a Confederate army train and captured New Era No. 5 before running aground. The crew escaped by floating to the Federal steamer De Soto on cotton bales.

Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and Arkansas.

Sunday, February 15.  Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Monday, February 16.  In Mississippi, skirmishing occurred as General Ulysses S. Grant tried moving gunboats and troops down Yazoo Pass. Confederate opposition prevented Grant from reaching Vicksburg.

Tuesday, February 17.  The Federal gunboat Indianola was posted at the mouth of the Red River on the Mississippi below Vicksburg to confront nearby Confederate vessels.

General Ulysses S. Grant rescinded the military order closing down the Chicago Times for allegedly publishing “disloyal statements.” In response to Federal General William S. Rosecrans’s complaints about Confederate raids on his camp in Tennessee, President Abraham Lincoln suggested that he conduct counter-raids. In Virginia, heavy snow covered the Federal and Confederate armies.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Jan 28-Feb 3, 1863

Wednesday, January 28.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to General Theophilus H. Holmes, commanding west of the Mississippi River, “The loss of either of the two positions–Vicksburg and Port Hudson–would destroy communication with the Trans-Mississippi Department and inflict upon the Confederacy an injury which I am sure you have not failed to appreciate.”

Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana and Tennessee. In St. Louis, a mass meeting approved the Emancipation Proclamation.

Thursday, January 29.  The Confederate Congress authorized the Treasury to borrow $15 million through French financier Emile Erlanger.

President Davis wired General John C. Pemberton, commander of Confederate forces at Vicksburg, “Has anything or can anything be done to obstruct the navigation from Yazoo Pass down?” Davis was concerned about Federal efforts to attack the vital stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi from the north.

In the Utah Territory, U.S. forces defeated the Bannock Indians at Bear River or Battle Creek. Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana, and Federal naval forces bombarded Galveston, Texas.

Friday, January 30.  In Mississippi, General Ulysses S. Grant assumed full command of the Vicksburg campaign and began developing plans to attack the fortress.

In South Carolina, the Federal gunboat Isaac Smith was captured by Confederates forces on the Stono River near Charleston. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia.

Saturday, January 31.  Confederate gunboats temporarily broke the blockade of Charleston, South Carolina by damaging Federal steamers. The Confederacy issued an international declaration that the blockade had been lifted, but this proved to be only a temporary disruption.

In Indiana, Federal cavalry intervened to stop resistance to the arrest of alleged military deserters in Morgan County. After shots were fired, the rioters were dispersed or captured, and the deserters were arrested.

Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina and Tennessee.

Sunday, February 1.  On the Georgia coast, Federal naval forces unsuccessfully attacked Fort McAllister, south of Savannah. In North Carolina, a Federal expedition left New Berne for Plymouth.

Monday, February 2.  On the Mississippi River, the Federal ram Queen of the West ran past the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg in an effort to attack enemy vessels. The ram passed without serious damage, despite being struck 12 times.

Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Tuesday, February 3.  On the Mississippi, Queen of the West captured three Confederate ships below Vicksburg and seized food, cotton, and prisoners, including ladies.

In Mississippi, Federal forces opened the levee at Yazoo Pass in an effort to reach Vicksburg via the Yazoo River. In Tennessee, Federal forces repulsed an attack by General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates at Fort Donelson.

In Washington, French Minister to the U.S. M. Mercier met with Secretary of State William Seward and, on behalf of Emperor Napoleon III, offered to mediate an end to the war. Seward later informed the French government that the U.S. declined the offer.

This Week in the Civil War: Jan 21-27, 1863

Wednesday, January 21.  In northern Virginia, General Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Potomac remained paralyzed by the driving winter rains that turned roads into impassable mud and slime. In Texas, two Federal blockaders were captured by Confederate steamers at Sabine Pass.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis dispatched General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Western Department, to General Braxton Bragg’s headquarters at Tullahoma, Tennessee to investigate criticism that Bragg had unnecessarily retreated from the Battle of Stone’s River. Davis was concerned that Bragg’s subordinates lacked confidence in their commander.

President Abraham Lincoln endorsed a letter from General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck to General Ulysses S. Grant explaining why Grant had been ordered to revoke his General Order No. 11. The controversial order had expelled all Jews from Grant’s military department. Halleck explained that Lincoln did not object to expelling “traitors and Jew peddlers,” but “as it in terms proscribed an entire religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks, the President deemed it necessary to revoke it.” The expulsion order was never enforced.

Lincoln officially cashiered General Fitz John Porter from the U.S. Army and forever disqualified him from holding any government office. This came after a January 10 court-martial convicted Porter of disobeying orders during the Battle of Second Bull Run the previous August. The ruling was reversed in 1879, and Porter was restored to the rank of colonel in 1886.

Thursday, January 22.  In northern Virginia, Ambrose Burnside’s Federals were stalled in mud, unable to cross the Rappahannock and attack General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Trains and wagons were stuck, horses and mules were dying, and the Federals were demoralized.

Ulysses S. Grant assumed command of all Federal troops in Arkansas. Within this, President Lincoln ordered General John McClernand’s Army of the Mississippi to return from its unauthorized expedition to Fort Hindman and become a corps under Grant’s command. This eventually caused resentment between the two generals, though Lincoln asked McClernand “for my sake, & for the country’s sake, you give your whole attention to the better work.” Grant renewed efforts to cut a canal across “Swampy Toe” opposite Vicksburg that would move boats and men around the fortress city.

Friday, January 23.  In northern Virginia, severe storms continued as Ambrose Burnside’s Federals pulled back to their winter quarters. The “mud march” ended in miserable failure. Many of Burnside’s subordinates criticized his leadership, but his harshest critic was Joseph Hooker, who called Burnside incompetent and the Lincoln administration feeble. Burnside responded by issuing General Order No. 8, charging Hooker with “unjust and unnecessary criticisms… endeavored to create distrust in the minds of officers… (including) reports and statements which were calculated to create incorrect impressions…” Burnside asked permission from President Lincoln to remove William B. Franklin, W.F. Smith, and others from the army, and to remove Hooker from the service entirely. Burnside also requested a personal meeting with the president.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Arkansas, and South Carolina. Lincoln began preparing orders to return General Benjamin Butler to New Orleans, replacing General Nathaniel Banks. The orders were never carried out.

Saturday, January 24.  In northern Virginia, the Federal Army of the Potomac settled back into its gloomy winter quarters across from Fredericksburg while dissension among the ranks increased. President Lincoln conferred with General-in-Chief Halleck on the military situation and awaited Ambrose Burnside’s arrival. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Virginia.

Sunday, January 25.  President Lincoln conferred with General Burnside this morning, who reiterated his demand to remove several generals from his command, otherwise he would resign. Later this morning, Lincoln resolved the dilemma by removing Generals Edwin V. Sumner and William B. Franklin from command. He also accepted Burnside’s resignation and replaced him with Joseph Hooker.

Burnside had reluctantly accepted command of the Army of the Potomac in the first place, and his ineptitude, first at Fredericksburg and then during the “mud march,” sealed his fate. The army was neither surprised nor disappointed by his removal. However, many were surprised that Hooker had been chosen to command, considering Hooker’s insubordinate comments about his superiors. Lincoln explained that he needed a fighter, and unlike Burnside, Hooker wanted the post.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Mississippi. In Arkansas, John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates reached Batesville. The organization of the first regiment of Federal Negro South Carolina soldiers was completed on the Carolina coast.

Monday, January 26.  General Joseph Hooker assumed command of the Federal Army of the Potomac. In a letter, President Lincoln explained why he had been chosen to lead: “I have heard… of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.”

Skirmishing occurred in Florida, Arkansas, and Virginia. The Confederate commerce raider C.S.S. Alabama seized a Federal vessel off Santo Domingo (the present-day Dominican Republic).

Tuesday, January 27.  In Georgia, Federal naval forces led by U.S.S. Montauk attacked Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River south of Savannah. The squadron withdrew after several hours of bombardment. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.

The proprietor of the Philadelphia Journal, A.D. Boileau, was arrested and brought to Washington to face charges for allegedly printing anti-Union material. President Davis complimented Georgia Governor Joseph Brown for reducing cotton cultivation and urging produce farming: “The possibility of a short supply of provisions presents the greatest danger to a successful prosecution of the war.”

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Jan 14-20, 1863

Wednesday, January 14.  In Louisiana, Federal gunboats and troops attacked the Confederate gunboat Cotton and land fortifications at Bayou Teche. After a sharp fight, Cotton was burned the next morning. General Edmund Kirby Smith was given command of the Confederate Army of the Southwest.

Thursday, January 15.  In Arkansas, Federal troops burned Mound City, a center of guerrilla activities. The Confederate commerce raider Florida set sail from Mobile in a campaign against Federal shipping. Confederate President Jefferson Davis suggested to General Braxton Bragg, who had retreated from Murfreesboro to Tullahoma in Tennessee, “For the present all which seems practicable is to select a strong position and fortifying it to wait for attack.” President Abraham Lincoln demonstrated his interest in inventions and scientific developments by requesting tests for a concentrated horse food and a new gunpowder.

Friday, January 16.  In Tennessee, a Federal expedition began from Fort Henry to Waverly. In Arkansas, the Federal gunboat Baron De Kalb seized guns and ammunition at Devall’s Bluff.

Saturday, January 17.  President Lincoln signed a congressional resolution providing for the immediate payment of military personnel. Lincoln also requested currency reforms, as the war was costing $2.5 million per day by this year. The cost was financed by selling war bonds, borrowing over $1 billion from foreign countries, and issuing paper currency called greenbacks. These measures caused a massive increase in the cost of living through a new economic term called “inflation,” as well as enormous interest payments after the war that threatened U.S. economic stability.

Following the capture of Fort Hindman, General John A. McClernand’s Federal Army of the Mississippi began moving down the Mississippi River to Milliken’s Bend, north of Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred at Newtown, Virginia, and a Federal expedition began from New Berne, North Carolina.

Sunday, January 18.  Skirmishing occurred in the Cherokee Country of the Indian Territory and along the White River in Arkansas.

Monday, January 19.  In northern Virginia, General Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Potomac began its second attempt to destroy General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Fredericksburg. Hoping to redeem himself after his disastrous defeat the previous month, Burnside promised to strike “a great and mortal blow to the rebellion” by moving north along the Rappahannock River and attacking Lee’s left. By evening, the Grand Divisions of Generals Joseph Hooker and William Franklin reached were prepared to cross the river.

President Lincoln responded to an address from workers of Manchester, Great Britain. He said he deplored the sufferings among mill workers in Europe caused by the cotton shortage, but it was the fault of “our disloyal citizens.” The Confederate government had unofficially banned the exportation of cotton, its greatest commodity, in the hopes that cotton-starved nations such as Britain and France would help the Confederacy gain independence so the cotton trade would resume. This became known as “King Cotton Diplomacy.”

Tuesday, January 20.  In northern Virginia, Ambrose Burnside changed his plans for crossing the Rappahannock, and icy rain began falling in torrents. Burnside later said, “From that moment we felt that the winter campaign had ended.” During the night, guns and pontoons were dragged through the muddy roads as a winter storm ravaged the East.

In Missouri, John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates captured Patterson in continued raiding. General David Hunter resumed command of the Federal Department of the South.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)