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)