This Week in the Civil War: Sep 2-8, 1863

Wednesday, September 2.  In eastern Tennessee, General Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Ohio entered Knoxville unopposed. The city had been virtually undefended, as most Confederates had left to join General Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga. The Federals were overwhelmingly welcomed by the predominantly pro-Union residents. The fall of Knoxville cut a key rail link between Chattanooga and Virginia, which forced Bragg to use a roundabout route through Georgia to supply his men.

In Charleston Harbor, the Federal bombardment lessened, but Federal troops entrenched themselves within 80 yards of Battery Wagner’s earthworks on Morris Island. The Alabama state legislature approved employing slaves in Confederate armies.

President Lincoln informed Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase that portions of Virginia and Louisiana could not be included under the Emancipation Proclamation because the “original proclamation has no constitutional or legal justification except as a military measure.”

A Federal expedition began from Martinsburg, West Virginia. Federal naval forces destroyed buildings and four small boats in a raid on Peace Creek, Florida. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, as Federal cavalry destroyed two Confederate (formerly Federal) gunboats on the Rappahannock River.

Thursday, September 3.  A portion of General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland skirmished with Braxton Bragg’s Confederates in Georgia as part of Rosecrans’s campaign to capture Chattanooga.

Federal troops fought Indians in California’s Hoopa Valley and in the Dakota Territory. Federal military operations began in the Humboldt Military District of California. Federal guns began pounding Battery Wagner.

Friday, September 4.  In Tennessee, William S. Rosecrans’s Federals continued their advance on Chattanooga. The Federals crossed the Tennessee River at Bridgeport, Alabama and Shellmound, Tennessee, and began encircling the city. Confederate President Jefferson Davis urged Braxton to hold Chattanooga while trying to muster reinforcements.

Federal transports and supply ships left New Orleans, advancing toward the Texas-Louisiana coast at Sabine Pass. This was the first of several moves by General Nathaniel Banks’s Federal Army of the Gulf to capture important points in Texas, both as an offensive against Confederates and as a display of force to the French occupying Mexico.

Women looted food and supply stores in Mobile, Alabama while carrying signs reading “Bread or Blood” and “Bread and Peace.” Southern discontent with the economy and hardships of war were becoming more prominent in the press. Federals scouted from Cold Water Grove, Missouri, and from Fort Lyon, Colorado toward Fort Larned, Kansas. Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas, Missouri and West Virginia.

Saturday, September 5.  U.S. Minister Charles Francis Adams informed British Lord John Russell that if Confederate ironclads left the British shipyards, “it would be superfluous for me to point out to your Lordship that this is war.” Two ships known as the “Laird Rams” were under construction in British navy yards, ostensibly to be used by the Confederacy. Unbeknownst to Adams, Russell had previously ordered the ships detained at Birkenhead. The “Laird Rams” were not delivered to the Confederacy, and an international crisis was averted.

In Charleston Harbor, Federals edged closer to the earthworks surrounding Battery Wagner as Federal artillery continued firing. Confederates repulsed a Federal attack on Fort Gregg on the north end of Morris Island. The Charleston Mercury stated that President Davis “has lost the confidence of both the army and the people.”

Meanwhile, President Davis urgently asked Braxton Bragg, “What is your proposed plan of operation (at Chattanooga)? Can you ascertain intention of enemy?… can you not cut his line of communication and compel him to retreat for want of supplies?”

William S. Rosecrans’s Federals skirmished with Confederates in Alabama and Georgia. Federals also skirmished in eastern Tennessee as they moved in on Cumberland Gap from Knoxville. Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas, and Federals battled Indians in the Dakota Territory.

Sunday, September 6.  In Charleston Harbor, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard evacuated Battery Wagner and Fort Gregg amidst the relentless Federal naval bombardment of the harbor forts. But Fort Sumter and Charleston held firm.

Monday, September 7.  In Charleston Harbor, Federals occupied Battery Wagner, which gave them a better position to fire upon Forts Sumter and Moultrie in the harbor.

Skirmishing occurred in Georgia, below Chattanooga. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri, and Kansas.

Tuesday, September 8.  In eastern Texas, a detachment of Federal transports and gunboats under General William Franklin occupied Sabine Pass and prepared to advance on Beaumont and Houston. The Confederates could muster only 47 defenders on the Sabine River, led by General John B. Magruder and Lieutenant Dick Dowling. Nevertheless, they destroyed a Federal gunboat from a nearby earthwork and forced the withdrawal of the remaining vessels. The humiliated Federals returned to New Orleans, while this small engagement greatly boosted Confederate morale in Texas.

In Charleston Harbor, Federal naval vessels bombarded the forts as the Federals prepared for a small-boat operation by night against Fort Sumter. William S. Rosecrans’s Federals skirmished in Alabama and Georgia. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, West Virginia, Louisiana, and the Arizona Territory.

President Davis informed General Robert E. Lee of the increasing threat to Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga; Davis said that he considered sending Lee west, but feared that Lee’s absence would demoralize the Army of Northern Virginia. Confederate Attorney General Thomas H. Watts resigned, having been elected governor of Alabama. He was replaced on an interim basis by Wade Keyes.

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: Aug 26-Sep 1, 1863

Wednesday, August 26.  In Charleston Harbor, Federals captured Confederate rifle pits in front of Battery Wagner on Morris Island. Confederate President Jefferson Davis confirmed General P.G.T. Beauregard’s decision to hold Fort Sumter.

In a letter to the “Unconditional Union Men” in Springfield, Illinois, President Abraham Lincoln wrote, “I do not believe any compromise, embracing the maintenance of the Union, is now possible.” He added, “Peace does not appear so distant as it did.”

Former U.S. Secretary of War and Confederate General John B. Floyd died in Virginia. In West Virginia, heavy skirmishing occurred among William Averell’s Federals at Rock Gap. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory.

Thursday, August 27President Davis expressed concern about increased Federal pressure on both Charleston and Chattanooga. Skirmishing occurred in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

Friday, August 28Federals conducted expeditions from Stevenson, Alabama to Trenton, Georgia, and from Lexington to various counties in Missouri. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Saturday, August 29.  In Charleston Harbor, the experimental Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sank during a test run, killing the five crewmen aboard.

In Tennessee, General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland moved slowly but decisively south of Chattanooga in an effort to capture the city by flanking it. The city was defended by General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee.

In the New Mexico Territory, Federal skirmishing increased with Navajo Indians. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri and Alabama.

Sunday, August 30In Charleston Harbor, Federal batteries inflicted heavy damage on Fort Sumter, as Confederate continued digging guns from the fort’s rubble and transferring them to Charleston.

A Federal expedition began toward Chattanooga, and another expedition operated around Leesburg, Virginia. In Arkansas, skirmishing occurred as Federal forces continued their campaign to capture the state capital at Little Rock.

Monday, August 31 Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kansas.

Tuesday, September 1.  The Federal military occupation of Missouri expanded into Arkansas, as Federal forces captured Fort Smith on Arkansas’s western border. Meanwhile, Federals also threatened eastern Arkansas and the state capital of Little Rock.

In Charleston Harbor, Federal artillery hammered Battery Wagner and Fort Sumter; the firing of 627 rounds ended the second phase of the bombardment. Sumter was in ruins, but its Confederate garrison refused to surrender.

In Tennessee, William Rosecrans’s Federals crossed the Tennessee River as they edged closer Braxton Bragg’s Confederates at Chattanooga. The crossing was largely unopposed, with minor skirmishing taking place in northern Alabama. President Davis told Tennessee Governor Isham G. Harris that reinforcements and arms were being sent to Bragg in Chattanooga.

Skirmishing occurred in various points of northern Virginia. Federals began moving from Natchez, Mississippi to Harrisonburg, Louisiana. Federal expeditions began from Paducah, Kentucky into Tennessee.

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