This Week in the Civil War: May 20-26, 1863

Wednesday, May 20.  Off North Carolina, two Confederate blockade-runners were captured near the Neuse Rive and Nassau. In Louisiana, General Nathaniel Banks’s Federal army began preparing to attack Port Hudson on the Mississippi River. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and the Indian Territory.

Thursday, May 21.  In Mississippi, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered a Federal attack on General John C. Pemberton’s Confederate lines outside Vicksburg. Confederates destroyed their stores and navy yard at Yazoo City before they could be captured by an approaching Federal flotilla.

In Louisiana, a portion of Nathaniel Banks’s Federals advanced on Port Hudson from Baton Rouge, while Banks’s main army approached from Alexandria. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Louisiana, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Friday, May 22.  In Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals launched a second assault on Vicksburg, but they were again repulsed with heavy losses. Grant lost nearly 3,200 killed, wounded, or missing, while the Confederates lost less than 500. Grant then decided to lay siege to the city in the hopes of starving it into submission.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wired General Braxton Bragg, commanding the Army of Tennessee at Tullahoma: “The vital issue of holding the Missi. at Vicksburg is dependent on the success of Genl. Johnston in an attack on the investing force. The intelligence from there is discouraging. Can you aid him?…”

In Washington, the War Department issued General Order No. 143, establishing the U.S. Bureau of Colored Troops to manage the enlistment and recruitment of blacks into the U.S. military. Since the war began, blacks had attempted to enlist but had been refused due to a 1792 Federal law prohibiting blacks from bearing arms for the U.S. army.

In Louisiana, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals continued approaching Port Hudson. In Virginia, General Alfred Pleasonton replaced General George Stoneman as commander of the cavalry corps in the Federal Army of the Potomac. The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society held a meeting in London and voiced strong support for the Union.

In Washington, President Abraham Lincoln greeted a group at the White House known as the “One-Legged Brigade.” He told the convalescing veterans that there was no need for a speech “as the men upon their crutches were orators; their very appearance spoke louder than tongues.” Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana and the Indian Territory.

Saturday, May 23.  In Louisiana, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals advanced on Port Hudson from Bayou Sara in a heavy storm. In Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals began preparing to lay siege to Vicksburg.

In Washington, President Lincoln conferred with army and navy officials about the unsuccessful Federal attacks on Charleston, South Carolina. In Ohio, petitions circulating protesting the “arbitrary arrest, illegal trial, and inhuman imprisonment of Hon. C.L. Vallandigham” for allegedly making pro-Confederate statements.

Jefferson Davis wired General Joseph E. Johnston, who was unable to stop Grant at Vicksburg, that he was “hopeful of junction of your forces and defeat of the enemy.” Davis also wired John C. Pemberton at Vicksburg, “Sympathizing with you for the reverse sustained.” Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas.

Sunday, May 24.  In Louisiana, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals began converging on Port Hudson. General John A. Schofield replaced General Samuel R. Curtis as commander of the Federal Department of Missouri.

Jefferson Davis wired Joseph E. Johnston that he knew John C. Pemberton would hold Vicksburg, “but the disparity of numbers renders prolonged defence dangerous. I hope you will soon be able to break the investment, make a junction and carry in munitions.”

President Lincoln spent the day visiting hospitals in and around Washington. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Monday, May 25.  In Louisiana, Confederates defending Port Hudson on the Mississippi were unable to abandon the fort before Nathaniel Banks’s Federals began surrounding it. The fort commander, General Franklin Gardner, had been ordered by Western Theater commander Joseph E. Johnston to abandon Port Hudson, but Gardner did not receive the order until Banks had already trapped the Confederates in the fort.

Federal authorities in Tennessee turned over former Ohio Congressmen Clement L. Vallandigham to the Confederates. His prison sentence had been changed by President Lincoln to banishment to the Confederacy after his conviction of expressing alleged pro-Confederate sentiments. The Confederates quickly exiled Vallandigham to Canada.

Federals captured the Confederate steamers Starlight and Red Chief on the Mississippi. C.S.S. Alabama seized two prizes in raids off Bahia, Brazil. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Tuesday, May 26.  In Louisiana, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals completed setting up siege operations at Port Hudson. Jefferson Davis wrote to General Robert E. Lee that “Pemberton is stoutly defending the entrenchments at Vicksburg, and Johnston has an army outside, which I suppose will be able to raise the siege, and combined with Pemberton’s forces may win a victory.”

Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, 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 18-24, 1863

Wednesday, February 18.  In South Carolina, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard warned against potential Federal attacks on either Savannah or Charleston: “To arms, fellow citizens!”

In Virginia, a portion of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was transferred from Fredericksburg to positions east of Richmond to protect the Confederate capital from potential Federal attacks from the Peninsula between the York and James Rivers.

In Kentucky, Federal authorities dispersed a suspected pro-Confederate Democratic convention. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Thursday, February 19.  In Mississippi, Federals under General Ulysses S. Grant skirmished with Confederates north of Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to Western Theater commander Joseph E. Johnston that he regretted “the confidence of superior officers in Genl. Bragg’s fitness for command has been so much impaired. It is scarcely possible in that state of the case for him to possess the requisite confidence of the troops.” However, Davis was reluctant to remove Braxton Bragg as commander of the Army of Tennessee.

Friday, February 20.  The Confederate Congress approved issuing bonds to fund Treasury notes. Skirmishing occurred between Federals and Indians in the Dakota Territory.

Saturday, February 21.  In Virginia, two Federal gunboats attacked Confederate batteries at Ware’s Point on the Rappahannock River. In Washington, a public reception was held at the White House.

Sunday, February 22.  To commemorate George Washington’s Birthday, the Central Pacific Railroad began construction on the transcontinental railroad project at Sacramento, California. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Alabama.

Monday, February 23.  Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and Kentucky, and Union meetings were held at Cincinnati; Russellville, Kentucky; and Nashville, Tennessee.

Tuesday, February 24.  On the Mississippi River, four Confederate vessels attacked the Federal gunboat Indianola. Among the attackers was Queen of the West, a Federal gunboat that had been captured and commandeered by the Confederates. Indianola was rammed seven times in the blistering fight, and Lieutenant Commander George Brown finally surrendered the ship, which he called “a partially sunken vessel.” This Confederate victory was a major setback to Federal river operations below 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: 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)

This Week in the Civil War: Dec 31, 1862-Jan 6, 1863

Wednesday, December 31.  In Tennessee, the Battle of Stone’s River (or Murfreesboro) began, as Federal General William Rosecrans and Confederate General Braxton Bragg resolved to attack each other. Both commanders planned to move left and crush the enemy right, but Bragg moved first and put the Federals on the defensive. After several Confederate assaults, the Federals withdrew to the Murfreesboro-Nashville Pike, pinned against Stone’s River.

Both sides inflicted heavy casualties, but the fighting was inconclusive and the Federal lines held. Bragg and Rosecrans remained within range of each other, each hoping that the other would withdraw. The Confederates entrenched, and the Federal command discussed the situation. Bragg prematurely wired the Confederate government that his men had scored a victory.

In Mississippi, General William T. Sherman’s Federals continued exploring various plans for attacking the bluffs north of Vicksburg.

In Tennessee, General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry was surprised by Federal forces at Parker’s Crossroad. After raiding General Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines, Forrest was confronting a Federal force in his front when a second force unexpectedly attacked from behind. When his staff asked for orders, Forrest said, “Split in two and charge both ways.” They followed the order and escaped, losing 300 troops.

Thursday, January 1.  In Washington, the traditional New Year’s reception took place in the White House. After receiving guests, President Abraham Lincoln retired to the Executive Office, where administration officials witnessed him signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Copies were sent to the press, and news of the signing was spread throughout the world. Although the proclamation technically freed nobody, it gave the U.S. a foreign relations advantage over the Confederacy. It also opened the path to permanently abolishing slavery. And perhaps most importantly, it authorized the recruitment of blacks into the military, giving the North an overwhelming manpower advantage. Celebrations and salutes were held among free blacks, former slaves, and abolitionists in Boston’s Tremont Temple.

Federal General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac, met with Lincoln to discuss a new plan of attack following the disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg the previous month. Lincoln informed the general that several army subordinates had no confidence in him. Burnside offered to resign, but Lincoln refused because he had no practical replacement. Hoping to redeem himself, Burnside promised to strike “a great and mortal blow to the rebellion” by moving north along the Rappahannock River and attacking Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s left flank. Lincoln reluctantly approved the plan.

In Texas, General John B. Magruder’s Confederates landed at Galveston to free the town from Federal occupation. Improvised gunboats landed on the lowlands, while cotton steamers attacked Federal ships in Galveston Harbor. When the Federal flagship was run aground, the naval flotilla abandoned the town, and the Federal garrison at Kuhn’s Wharf surrendered. The Confederate capture of Galveston temporarily broke the Federal naval blockade.

In Tennessee, General William Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland and General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee remained in their positions from the previous day, poised to strike each other at Stone’s River. In South Carolina, Robert Yeadon of Charleston offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of Federal General Benjamin F. Butler, dead or alive.

Friday, January 2.  In Tennessee, the Battle of Stone’s River (or Murfreesboro) resumed after a one-day respite. Braxton Bragg’s Confederates resumed their attacks, but the Federal lines had been strengthened and the attacks were repulsed. By nightfall, both armies fell back, and rain turned the battlefield into a quagmire.

Saturday, January 3.  In Tennessee, Braxton Bragg’s Confederates began withdrawing to Tullahoma. William Rosecrans was surprised by Bragg’s withdrawal and did not pursue. This prompted Bragg to claim a tactical victory, but it soon became apparent that this was a significant Confederate defeat. The Battle of Stone’s River secured Kentucky and Tennessee for the Federals. It also boosted the morale of pro-Union eastern Tennesseans and demoralized Confederate sympathizers in central Tennessee and Kentucky. Many Confederates saw this as a missed opportunity to destroy the northern war effort after the Federals had been so soundly beaten at Fredericksburg the previous month.

In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals began withdrawing from the bluffs north of Vicksburg across the Mississippi River to Milliken’s Bend. Their effort to capture Vicksburg ended in failure, but the overall commander, General Ulysses S. Grant, soon began developing another plan of attack. John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates recrossed the Cumberland River after raiding Federal supply lines in Kentucky. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates crossed the Tennessee River at Clifton after attacking Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines.

Sunday, January 4.  General John A. McClernand’s 30,000-man Federal force began an unauthorized move up the Arkansas River with 50 transports and gunboats commanded by Admiral David D. Porter. McClernand’s force included the corps belonging to William T. Sherman that had just withdrawn from Mississippi, and this move sought to avenge the Federal defeat at Chickasaw Bluffs last month. Their target was Arkansas Post, or Fort Hindman, on the Arkansas River.

Federal General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck ordered Ulysses S. Grant to rescind his controversial General Order No. 11 expelling all Jews from his military department. President Lincoln endorsed Halleck’s order, and Grant complied on January 7.

In Tennessee, various skirmishes occurred as Braxton Bragg’s Confederates continued withdrawing from Murfreesboro. In the New Mexico Territory, Federal forces began operations against various Indian tribes that continued until May. U.S.S. Quaker City captured a Confederate blockade-runner carrying important dispatches off Charleston, South Carolina.

Monday, January 5.  In Tennessee, Federal troops entered Murfreesboro as skirmishing continued. President Lincoln wired William Rosecrans, “God bless you and all with you… I can never forget… that you gave us a hard-earned victory, which, if there had been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over.” Rosecrans soon began planning a Federal advance on the vital railroad city of Chattanooga.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis returned to Richmond after completing his southern tour. Davis told a serenading crowd that the Confederacy was the last hope “for the perpetuation of that system of government which our forefathers founded–the asylum of the oppressed and the home of true representative liberty.” Davis added, “Every crime which could characterize the course of demons has marked the course of the invader.” Noting the recent victory at Fredericksburg, Davis quipped that the only Federals who had reached the Confederate capital thus far had been prisoners.

Tuesday, January 6.  General John Marmaduke’s Confederates raided Missouri and fought skirmishes at Linn Creek and Fort Lawrence, Beaver Station.

This Week in the Civil War: Dec 24-30, 1862

Wednesday, December 24.  In Texas, Federal forces occupied Galveston, which had already been partially occupied by naval forces since October. Galveston had been used as a port for Confederate blockade runners, but it was too far from the Confederate heartland to be an effective base.

In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders occupied Glasgow. A portion of General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal army under William T. Sherman moved down the Mississippi River from Memphis toward Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Thursday, December 25.  In Washington, President and Mrs. Lincoln spent Christmas Day visiting wounded soldiers at local hospitals. In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals approached Milliken’s Bend, north of Vicksburg. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates skirmished with Federals at various points. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Friday, December 26.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals landed on the south bank of the Yazoo River near Steele’s Bayou, seven miles from its confluence with the Mississippi River and four miles northwest of Chickasaw Bluffs.

In Tennessee, General William Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland moved out of Nashville to confront General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro. Rosecrans was slowed by attacks on his Kentucky railroad lines by John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates. General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry withdrew after disrupting major parts of General Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines in Tennessee and Mississippi.

In Minnesota, the largest mass execution in U.S. history took place, as 38 condemned Dakota Sioux Indians were hanged at Mankato for participating in the Dakota Sioux War earlier this year. The bodies were buried in a trench on the riverbank. The other 265 Indians convicted for participating in the war remained in military prisons. By this time, there were over 1,000 Dakota Sioux imprisoned throughout Minnesota for various crimes.

Saturday, December 27.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals continued moving slowly through the swamps, marshes, and bayous north of Vicksburg;  Confederate General John C. Pemberton began rushing troops in to defend the town. In Tennessee, various skirmishing occurred as William Rosecrans’s Federals continued advancing toward Braxton Bragg’s Confederates. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates captured a Federal garrison at Elizabethtown. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and North Carolina.

Sunday, December 28.  Various skirmishes occurred as William T. Sherman’s Federals advanced on Vicksburg and William Rosecrans’s Federals advanced on Murfreesboro. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, and Federals evacuated New Madrid, Missouri. In Arkansas, James Blunt’s Federal Army of the Frontier defeated Confederates at Dripping Springs, drove them through Van Buren, and captured about 40 wagons, four steamers, and other equipment.

Monday, December 29.  In Mississippi, the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs occurred as William T. Sherman’s Federals were repulsed by heavy fire from John C. Pemberton’s Confederate defenders on the foot of the bluffs near Chickasaw Bayou. The Federals suffered 1,776 casualties, while the Confederates lost only 207. Fog disrupted a second Federal attack, and Sherman admitted failure. To many northerners, this battle seemed painfully similar to Fredericksburg. This defeat, combined with constant raids on Federal supplies, marked a discouraging beginning to Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign to capture Vicksburg.

In Tennessee, skirmishing continued between William Rosecrans’s Federals and Braxton Bragg’s Confederates. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates skirmished at Johnson’s Ferry and captured a stockade at Boston.

Tuesday, December 30.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals remained pinned at the foot of the Chickasaw Bluffs north of Vicksburg. In Tennessee, William Rosecrans’s Federals came within range of Braxton Bragg’s Confederates at Murfreesboro. In eastern Tennessee, S.P. Carter’s Federals captured Union and Carter’s Depot. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates fought various skirmishes as they began withdrawing.

In Washington, President Lincoln presented a draft of the final Emancipation Proclamation, to be issued on January 1. He also wired General Ambrose Burnside about dissension and low morale within the Army of the Potomac: “I have good reason for saying you must not make a general movement of the army without letting me know.”

The first Federal ironclad warship, U.S.S. Monitor, sank in stormy seas while being towed off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Sixteen men died in the sinking ship, while 47 survivors were rescued by nearby steamer Rhode Island. Though Monitor had defeated C.S.S. Virginia in the famed Battle of the Ironclads in March, she had never been very seaworthy.

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: Dec 10-16, 1862

Wednesday, December 10.  In Virginia, General Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Potomac increased activity at Falmouth, indicating that an attack on Fredericksburg was imminent. In North Carolina, Confederates captured a Federal garrison at Plymouth. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill approving the secession of the western part of the state from Virginia. The Senate had already passed a measure creating the state of West Virginia on July 14.

Thursday, December 11.  In Virginia, Federal engineers began constructing pontoon bridge for Burnside’s army to cross the Rappahannock River and enter Fredericksburg. The engineers were under fire from Confederate sharpshooters until Federal artillery cleared them out. Federal forces crossed into Fredericksburg on two bridges and drove the Confederates out of town. Confederate General Robert E. Lee awaited the invasion; the only mystery was where the Federals would strike. In northern Mississippi, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest led about 2,500 men in a raid on Federal General Ulysses S. Grant’s communications.

Friday, December 12.  In Virginia, Federal troops continued crossing the Rappahannock and entering Fredericksburg. Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson positioned his corps on Lee’s right flank, while General James Longstreet’s corps assembled on the left. It was apparent that there would be a Federal attack the next day. On the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the Federal ironclad Cairo struck a mine and sank; the crew escaped. In response to rumors of peace overtures, President Abraham Lincoln wrote to New York Mayor Fernando Wood that if the southern states ceased resistance to national authority, “the war would cease on the part of the United States.”

Saturday, December 13.  The Battle of Fredericksburg took place as the Federal Army of the Potomac attacked the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia outside town. Federal attacks on “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps were repulsed. The Federals then attacked Longstreet’s corps positioned on a ridge outside town called Mayre’s Heights. After brutal, desperate fighting, the Federals were easily repulsed and their assault failed miserably. Ambrose Burnside’s eagerness to fight Robert E. Lee had led to one of the worst Federal defeats of the war.

In Tennessee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis continued his tour of the South by reviewing General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro and conferring with the generals.

Sunday, December 14.  In Virginia, Ambrose Burnside ordered a renewed attack on Fredericksburg, but his officers persuaded him to change his mind. Robert E. Lee was criticized in the South for failing to counterattack, even though his men were vastly outnumbered. In Washington, President Lincoln held conferences with his generals and advisers. In North Carolina, Federal forces under General John G. Foster captured Kingston. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Virginia.

Monday, December 15.  In Virginia, the beaten Federal Army of the Potomac completed its withdrawal back across the Rappahannock River and away from Fredericksburg. Many army officers complained about Burnside’s decisions. In Louisiana, General Benjamin Butler relinquished command of the Federal Department of the Gulf, headquartered in New Orleans. The city’s residents were ecstatic to see the controversial general leave. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Missouri.

Tuesday, December 16.  In Virginia, the Federal Army of the Potomac established positions on Stafford Heights overlooking the Rappahannock. In Louisiana, General Nathaniel Banks assumed command of the Federal Department of the Gulf. In North Carolina, John G. Foster’s Federals skirmished with Confederates at White Hall and Mount Olive Station. President Lincoln postponed the execution of Dakota Sioux Indians (imprisoned for conducting the Dakota Sioux uprising this summer) from December 19 to December 26.

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