This Week in the Civil War: Apr 29-May 5, 1863

Wednesday, April 29.  In Virginia, a major part of General Joseph Hooker’s Federal Army of the Potomac crossed the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s and U.S. fords and moved into the Wilderness. This was part of Hooker’s plan to force General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates out of their impregnable positions in Fredericksburg and give battle. To further prod Lee, Hooker sent Federal cavalry under General George Stoneman between Lee and Richmond to catch the Confederates in a pincers movement.

On the Mississippi River, Admiral David D. Porter’s Federal naval fleet began shuttling General Ulysses S. Grant’s troops across the river. This was part of Grant’s plan to march southward past Vicksburg on the river’s west bank, then recross the river and attack the city from behind.

A Federal diversionary force under Colonel Benjamin Grierson continued raiding Mississippi, skirmishing at Brookhaven. In Missouri, General John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates skirmished at Castor River.

Thursday, April 30.  In Virginia, Joseph Hooker established headquarters at Chancellorsville, a small village in the Wilderness. Hooker did not order an attack; rather, he waited for Robert E. Lee’s Confederates to move into the open. Confident that Lee would be destroyed, Hooker proclaimed to his troops that “the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must ingloriously fly, or come out from behind their defenses and give us battle on our ground, where certain destruction awaits him.” However, Lee had a plan of his own.

On the Mississippi, the vanguard of Ulysses S. Grant’s army under General John A. McClernand assembled on the river’s east bank, south of Vicksburg and ready to advance inland unopposed. Grant later wrote, “All the campaigns, labors, hardships, and exposures, from the month of December previous to this time, that had been made and endured, were for the accomplishments of this one object.” Grant was aided by Benjamin Grierson’s cavalry diversion, as well as Federal demonstrations north of Vicksburg led by General William T. Sherman.

Skirmishing occurred in Alabama, western Virginia, and the Indian Territory.

Friday, May 1.  In Virginia, the Battle of Chancellorsville began. As Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac tried outflanking Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, Lee hurried to block the Federals’ exit from the Wilderness, a region of tangled underbrush that would offset the superior Federal numbers. Lee left about 10,000 men to face the Federal corps threatening Fredericksburg. After holding his ground in a series of skirmishes, Hooker ordered a withdrawal to stronger defensive positions around Chancellorsville. This stunned his subordinates, and although Hooker explained that he thought Lee was heavily reinforced, he later admitted, “For once, I lost confidence in Joe Hooker.”

The Federal withdrawal allowed Lee to seize the initiative. That evening, he discussed strategy with General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who proposed to split the army by sending Jackson’s corps to attack the vulnerable right flank. This was a bold plan because Lee’s army was already split between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. However, Lee approved.

In his effort to capture Vicksburg, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals continued crossing the Mississippi River south of the town at Bruinsburg. The lead Federal corps under General John A. McClernand moved inland toward Port Gibson, about 30 miles south of Vicksburg. A small Confederate force outflanked at Grand Gulf hurried to Port Gibson to intercept McClernand. After a day-long fight, the outnumbered Confederates withdrew. Securing Port Gibson allowed the main Federal force to establish strong positions at Grand Gulf.

Before adjourning, the Confederate Congress approved several measures, including creating a Provisional Navy to complement the Regular Navy; allowing the president to approve contracts for building naval vessels in Europe; allowing congressional delegates from various Indian nations; creating a commission on taxes; tightening provisions on the conscription law; and adopting a national flag known as the “Stainless Banner.”

Skirmishing occurred in Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee. In Missouri, John Marmaduke’s Confederates skirmished at Chalk Bluff on the St. Francis River as they returned to Arkansas.

Saturday, May 2.  In Virginia, “Stonewall” Jackson’s 28,000 Confederates moved around the Federal right flank. Federal scouts observed them and concluded they were retreating. However, Jackson attacked the unsuspecting Federal Eleventh Corps at 6 p.m. On the Federal left, Robert E. Lee’s remaining Confederates attacked to divert attention from Jackson, even though they were outnumbered by nearly four-to-one. The fight ended at nightfall with the Federals in disarray. During the night, “Stonewall” Jackson was accidentally shot by Confederate pickets while scouting positions.

In Louisiana, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals arrived in Baton Rouge after conducting one of the most successful cavalry operations of the war. Diverting Confederate attention from Ulysses S. Grant, Grierson’s men raided western Tennessee, killing 100 Confederates, taking 500 prisoners, destroying up to 60 miles of railroad and telegraph lines, capturing or destroying 3,000 arms, and seizing 1,000 horses and mules. Grierson’s men had traveled 600 miles and fought four engagements, evading thousands of Confederates along the way.

Skirmishing occurred in Alabama, Tennessee, and western Virginia.

Sunday, May 3.  In Virginia, “Stonewall” Jackson’s wounds from the previous night were so serious that he relinquished command to General Jeb Stuart. By morning, the Federals had established a V-shaped defensive line. When the Confederates attacked, the Federals slowly moved back. Joseph Hooker had tens of thousands of reserves that were yet to be deployed, but he ordered no counterattack. He was knocked unconscious when he was hit in the head by wood scattered from a Confederate shell. When he regained consciousness, Hooker ordered a general withdrawal.

In Alabama, Colonel A.D. Streight’s Federals surrendered to Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest after heavy raiding and skirmishing. The Roman Catholic bishop of Iowa threatened church members with excommunication if they refused to renounce the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle.

Monday, May 4.  In Virginia, the Federal corps at Fredericksburg broke through the Confederate defenses and joined Joseph Hooker’s main force. However, Hooker was already withdrawing his army across the Rappahannock River. Confederate President Jefferson Davis wired Lee his thanks on behalf of the people “reverently united with you in giving praise to God for the success with which He has crowned your arms.”

In Mississippi, Grant’s Federals continued moving south of Vicksburg, skirmishing at various places. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Tuesday, May 5.  In Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate prepared to attack Joseph Hooker’s Federals again. However, Hooker’s army fell back across the Rappahannock, ending the Battle of Chancellorsville in Federal defeat. Hooker was defeated by a force less than half his size that had been divided three times. This humiliated the North and has since been considered one of the greatest military victories in history. However, it was a pyrrhic victory for Lee because he suffered a much greater casualty percentage than Hooker.

Former Congressman Clement Vallandigham was arrested by Federal troops in Dayton, Ohio for violating General Order No. 38. The order, issued by Department of the Ohio commander Ambrose Burnside, had prohibited disloyalty in his jurisdiction. Vallandigham was one of the most outspoken “Copperheads,” or Peace Democrats who opposed the war. His specific offense had been delivering a speech calling the war “wicked and cruel,” where the object was not to preserve the Union but to subjugate the South and establish a Republican dictatorship.

Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia. Federals conducted operations against the Indians in the Utah and Idaho territories.

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: Apr 22-28, 1863

Wednesday, April 22.  On the Mississippi River, a Federal naval flotilla of six transports and 13 barges passed the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg and landed downriver. One transport and seven barges were sunk, but the rest carried the necessary supplies for General Ulysses S. Grant to execute his plan to capture Vicksburg. Confederate President Jefferson Davis advised General John C. Pemberton, commanding the Confederates at Vicksburg, to block Federal ships on the river with flaming rafts.

Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Missouri.

Thursday, April 23.  Newspapers reported that a seance was conducted by a medium at the White House. It was alleged that after President Abraham Lincoln left the session, “spirits” pinched the nose of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and pulled the beard of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.

In North Carolina, four Confederate ships ran the Federal blockade at Wilmington and delivered valuable supplies. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri.

Friday, April 24.  The Confederate Congress passed a law imposing a “tax in kind” on 10 percent of all produce for the current year. The tax disproportionately harmed small farmers who could not afford to surrender 10 percent of their harvest, unlike plantation farmers.

In Alabama, General Grenville Dodge’s Federals captured Tuscumbia. In Mississippi, Federal Colonel Benjamin Grierson continued his cavalry raid to divert attention from Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg; Grierson’s men skirmished at Garlandville and Birmingham. In the Gulf of Mexico, U.S.S. De Soto captured four Confederate blockade runners.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Saturday, April 25.  Confederate General Dabney H. Maury assumed command of the largely pro-Union Department of East Tennessee. In Great Britain, debate took place in Parliament over what should be done about British vessels seized by U.S. blockade ships. Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, the Indian Territory, and the Arizona Territory.

Sunday, April 26.  In Missouri, General John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates were repulsed while attacking Cape Girardeau. In Mississippi, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals threatened the state capital at Jackson. In Alabama, a Federal raid began from Tuscumbia, headed for Rome, Georgia.

Skirmishing occurred in Maryland, Virginia, western Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Monday, April 27.  In Virginia, General Joseph Hooker’s Federal Army of the Potomac began moving out of winter quarters at Falmouth up the Rappahannock River toward the fords over the river. This began another effort to destroy General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Spring weather had dried the roads, and Washington was pressuring Hooker to act.

The Confederate Congress passed a law authorizing the issuance of eight percent bonds or stock to redeem bonds sold prior to December 1, 1862. Dabney H. Maury was replaced as commander of the Confederate Department of East Tennessee by General Simon Bolivar Buckner. Maury was reassigned to command the District of the Gulf.

In Missouri, Marmaduke’s Confederates continued skirmishing near Jackson and White Water Bridge. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, western Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Tuesday, April 28.  In Virginia, the Army of the Potomac began crossing the Rappahannock, moving through the Wilderness area west of Robert E. Lee’s Confederates at Fredericksburg. Hooker left a Federal corps to oppose Fredericksburg while the rest of his army moved to outflank Lee’s left. The Episcopal church in Fredericksburg rang the alarm.

President Lincoln commuted the death sentence of Sergeant John A. Chase, who had been convicted of striking and threatening an officer. Lincoln instead ordered Chase imprisoned at hard labor “with ball and chain attached to his leg” for the remainder of the war.

In Mississippi, Grierson’s Federals skirmished at Union Church. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky and Alabama.

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: Apr 15-21, 1863

Wednesday, April 15.  On the Mississippi River, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals continued moving from Milliken’s Bend to below the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, skirmishing with Confederates along the way. In North Carolina, Confederates abandoned a siege of Washington when Federal reinforcements approached.

Off Brazil, the Confederate commerce raider C.S.S. Alabama captured two U.S. whalers. President Abraham Lincoln wrote to General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, that he was concerned about the Federal cavalry’s slowness along the Rappahannock River in northern Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

Thursday, April 16.  On the Mississippi River, a Federal naval flotilla of 12 ships under Admiral David D. Porter passed the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg and landed downriver near New Carthage. All but one of the vessels made it through, despite taking several hits from the Confederate cannon. This was part of Ulysses S. Grant’s bold plan to capture Vicksburg by crossing his 44,000 troops to the west bank of the Mississippi, marching them southward past the town, then recrossing the river to take Vicksburg from behind.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law authorizing army commissions for minors. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

Friday, April 17.  Ulysses S. Grant dispatched Federal cavalry under Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson to raid northern Mississippi and southern Tennessee. This sought to divert Confederates from Grant’s plan to capture Vicksburg. Grierson and 1,700 cavalrymen left La Grange, Tennessee and moved into northern Mississippi.

Confederates under General John S. Marmaduke invaded Missouri from Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, and Missouri.

Saturday, April 18.  President Davis approved a law creating a volunteer navy in which individuals could purchase and fit out private vessels that would operate against Federal ships for prize money. The volunteer navy measure was not implemented.

In Mississippi, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals skirmished at New Albany. In Louisiana, Federals destroyed a Confederate salt works near New Iberia. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas.

Sunday, April 19.  President Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck traveled to Aquia Creek in northern Virginia on a one-day trip to discuss military issues. In Mississippi, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals skirmished at Pontotoc. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, and Missouri.

Monday, April 20.  President Lincoln issued a proclamation stating that West Virginia, having been granted statehood by Congress the previous December, would officially join the Union on June 20, the two-year anniversary of when western Virginia voters chose to secede from the rest of the state.

In Louisiana, Federals captured Opelousas, Washington, and Butte-a-la-Rose. In Missouri, John Marmaduke’s Confederates skirmished at Patterson. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, western Virginia, and Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 21.  In western Virginia, General William E. Jones’s Confederates raided the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

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: Apr 8-14, 1863

Wednesday, April 8.  In the Federal campaign to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, Federal forces under General John McClernand skirmished with Confederates near New Carthage on the Mississippi River. In Virginia, President Abraham Lincoln reviewed portions of the Army of the Potomac with General Joseph Hooker at Falmouth. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Arkansas.

Thursday, April 9.  Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri.

Friday, April 10.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law limiting the cultivation of cotton and tobacco on private farms and plantations. Davis proclaimed, “Let fields be devoted exclusively to the production of corn, oats, beans, peas, potatoes, and other food for man and beast… let all your efforts be directed to the prompt supply of these articles in the districts where our armies are operating.”

Davis said, “Alone, unaided, we have met and overthrown the most formidable combination of naval and military armaments that the lust of conquest ever gathered together for the subjugation of a free people… We must not forget, however, that the war is not yet ended… and that the Government which controls these fleets and armies is driven to the most desperate efforts to effect the unholy purposes in which it has thus far been defeated.”

President Lincoln returned to Washington after reviewing more Army of the Potomac troops at Falmouth. In Tennessee, Confederates under General Earl Van Dorn attacked Federals at Franklin but withdrew after a fierce skirmish.

Saturday, April 11.  In Virginia, Confederates under General James Longstreet began a siege of Federals at Suffolk. In the Utah Territory, Federals began an offensive against the Indians from Camp Douglas to the Spanish Fork Canon. In South Carolina, Federal blockaders forced the blockade runner Stonewall Jackson ashore off Charleston. Skirmishing occurred at several points, including a Federal cavalry operation into Georgia. President Lincoln held a cabinet meeting and discussed his visit to General Hooker’s Army of the Potomac.

Sunday, April 12.  President Lincoln reviewed a letter from General Hooker, in which Hooker proposed to attack General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia by crossing the Rappahannock River, turning Lee’s left flank, and using cavalry to cut Confederate lines to Richmond. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee. In California, a Federal offensive against Indians began from Camp Babbitt.

Monday, April 13.  As a result of the unsuccessful Federal attack on Charleston Harbor on April 7, Flag Officer Samuel Du Pont determined that the harbor forts could not be taken by naval force alone. However, President Lincoln ordered Du Pont to hold his position in Charleston Harbor. Lincoln expressed frustration over the failure of the Federal ironclads to capture the forts.

General Ambrose Burnside, commanding the Federal Department of the Ohio, issued General Order No. 38. This stated that “the habit of declaring sympathy for the enemy will not be allowed in this department.” Anyone criticizing the war effort or committing “treason, expressed or implied,” would be arrested and face a military tribunal for disloyalty. Those found guilty of aiding the Confederacy would be executed, and southern sympathizers would be deported to the South. Burnside’s order sought to silence the growing anti-war sentiment in the region west of the Alleghenies and north of the Ohio River. The dissidents were known as “Copperheads” for wearing copper pennies in their lapels.

In Louisiana, Federals under General Nathaniel Banks attacked Fort Bisland on Bayou Teche, forcing the Confederates to withdraw. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 14.  In Louisiana, General Banks’s Federals occupied Fort Bisland, as Federal naval fire destroyed the captured Federal gunboat Queen of the West. In Virginia, General Hooker’s Federal cavalry conducted operations near Rappahannock Bridge, and at Kelly’s, Welford’s, and Beverly fords. President Lincoln reiterated the importance for Federal warships to remain in Charleston Harbor.

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: Apr 1-7, 1863

Wednesday, April 1.  The Confederate armies were reorganized: the Confederate Department of Richmond was created with General Arnold Elzey commanding, the Confederate Department of Southern Virginia was created with General S.G. French commanding, and the Department of North Carolina was created with General D.H. Hill commanding. General Francis J. Heron assumed command of the Federal Department of the Frontier. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Thursday, April 2.  Food shortages and soaring prices led to what became known as the “Richmond bread riot” in the Confederate capital. An angry group of citizens, mostly women, surrounded a wagon demanding food. When their demands were not met, they stormed the city’s business district, smashed store windows and doors, and seized items such as flour, meal, and clothing. Virginia Governor John Letcher dispatched state militia to restore order. Then President Jefferson Davis stood on a wagon, threw the crowd all the money he had, and warned that the troops would open fire if they did not disperse. The crowd finally disbanded with no arrests or injuries.

Davis defended General John C. Pemberton, who was facing criticism for his northern heritage and for allowing the Federals to close in on Vicksburg, Mississippi. Davis stated that “by his judicious imposition of his forces and skillful selection of the best points of defence he has repulsed the enemy at Vicksburg, Port Hudson, on the Tallahatchie and at Deer Creek, and has thus far foiled his every attempt to get possession of the Mississippi river and the vast section of country which it controls.”

President Abraham Lincoln issued orders directing the Treasury secretary to regulate trade with states in rebellion.

Friday, April 3.  President Davis wrote to Arkansas Governor Harris Flanagin that “if we lost control of the Eastern side (of the Mississippi River), the Western must almost inevitably fall into the power of the enemy. The defense of the fortified places on the Eastern bank is therefore regarded as the defense of Arkansas quite as much as that of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.” President Lincoln informed General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Army of the Potomac, that he planned to meet with him in northern Virginia this weekend.

In Pennsylvania, four men were arrested in Reading for allegedly belonging to the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle. Federal expeditions began in western Virginia and Arkansas. In Tennessee, Federal forces destroyed Palmyra in retaliation for an attack on a Federal convoy the previous day.

Saturday, April 4.  In celebration of his son Tad’s 10th birthday, President Lincoln and his entourage steamed down from Washington to visit General Hooker and watch a “grand review” of the Army of the Potomac at Falmouth Heights, Virginia. Off North Carolina, Federal naval forces failed to capture a Confederate battery near Washington. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Louisiana.

Sunday, April 5.  In Virginia, President Lincoln conferred with General Hooker. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Monday, April 6.  In Virginia, President Lincoln wrote a memo in General Hooker’s headquarters stating that “our prime object is the enemies’ army in front of us, and is not with, or about, Richmond…” In Great Britain, the British government seized the Confederate vessel Alexandria while it was being fitted in Liverpool harbor. Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana.

Tuesday, April 7.  Flag Officer Samuel Du Pont led an attack by nine Federal ironclads on the forts in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The ironclads sustained heavy damage from Confederate artillery at Forts Sumter and Moultrie; U.S.S. Keokuk sank the next morning after suffering 91 hits, and four other ships were disabled. The Federal attack was unsuccessful.

In Tennessee, Confederates under General Joseph Wheeler raided the Louisville & Nashville and Nashville & Chattanooga Railroads. In Louisiana, the Federal steamer Barataria was captured by Confederates on the Amite River. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Louisiana.

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 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: Feb 4-10, 1863

Wednesday, February 4.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to General Robert E. Lee expressing concern about the Federal threats to the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Thursday, February 5.  Queen Victoria of England In Great Britain, Queen Victoria informed the British Parliament that Britain had refrained from trying to “induce a cessation of the conflict between the contending parties in the North American States, because it has not yet seemed to Her Majesty that any such overture could be attended with a probability of success.”

In Virginia, General Joseph Hooker began reforming the Federal Army of the Potomac after assuming command. Hooker removed former commander Ambrose Burnside’s system of “grand divisions” and reinstated the army corps system. Hooker also worked to restore troop morale by providing better food, equipment, and camp sanitation.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Arkansas.

Friday, February 6.  U.S. Secretary of State William Seward informed the French government that the offer by Emperor Napoleon III to mediate an end to the war had been declined.

In Virginia, a corps from the Federal Army of the Potomac was transfered to Newport News to threaten the Confederate capital of Richmond from the east.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Saturday, February 7.  General Samuel P. Heintzelman assumed command of the recreated Federal Department of Washington.

In South Carolina, three Confederate blockade runners broke through the Federal blockade on Charleston.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Sunday, February 8.  Circulation of the Chicago Times was temporarily suspended by a military order for publishing “disloyal statements.” General Ulysses S. Grant later rescinded the order.

Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and Missouri.

Monday, February 9.  The Confederate Southwestern Army was extended to include the entire Trans-Mississippi Department.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Tuesday, February 10.  On the Mississippi River, the Federal ship Queen of the West headed toward the Red River.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, western Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, 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: 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)

The Civil War This Week: Jan 7-13, 1863

Wednesday, January 7.  Federal General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck wrote to General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac, emphasizing “our first object was, not Richmond, but the defeat or scattering of Lee’s army.” Halleck strongly backed Burnside’s plan to attack across the Rappahannock.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, asking Lee to call on the Federal commanders to “prevent the savage atrocities which are threatened.” If the Federals did not comply, Lee should inform them that “measures will be taken by retaliation to repress the indulgence of such brutal passion.”

In Missouri, General John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates captured Ozark and advanced on Springfield. A group of 450 women and children left Washington, DC for Richmond and the Confederacy with permission from the Federal government. The Richmond Enquirer called the Emancipation Proclamation “the most startling political crime, the most stupid political blunder, yet known in American history… Southern people have now only to choose between victory and death.”

Thursday, January 8.  President Abraham Lincoln wrote to troubled Ambrose Burnside, “I do not yet see how I could profit by changing the command of the A.P. (Army of the Potomac) & if I did, I should not wish to do it by accepting the resignation of your commission.”

Defending the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln wrote to General John A. McClernand that “it must stand… As to the States not included in it, of course they can have their rights in the Union as of old.” President Davis wrote to General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Western Theater, “To hold the Mississippi is vital.”

In Missouri, John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates were repulsed by the Federal garrison at Springfield. In Washington, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Lincoln’s appointment of John P. Usher of Indiana as Interior secretary. Usher replaced Caleb Smith, who resigned due to poor health. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Virginia, and Arkansas.

Friday, January 9.  In Tennessee, General William S. Rosecrans reorganized the Federal Army of the Cumberland into three corps commanded by George H. Thomas, Alexander McD. McCook, and Thomas L. Crittenden.

In Missouri, the Federal garrison at Hartville surrendered to John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates. Boat crews from U.S.S. Ethan Allen destroyed salt works near St. Joseph’s, Florida.

Saturday, January 10.  John A. McClernand’s Federals closed in on Arkansas Post, or Fort Hindman, about 50 miles up the Arkansas River from its junction with the Mississippi. McClernand drove in on the outer earthworks, and naval bombardment stopped Confederate artillery. Land units were poised to attack the besieged Confederates under General Thomas J. Churchill.

President Lincoln wrote to General Samuel Curtis in St. Louis about his concern with the slave problem in Missouri. A Federal military court-martial dismissed General Fitz John Porter from the U.S. Army for failing to obey orders during the Battle of Second Bull Run the previous August. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas, and Federal warships bombarded Galveston, Texas.

Sunday, January 11.  After a two-day naval bombardment, John A. McClernand launched a Federal ground attack on Fort Hindman on the Arkansas River. The overwhelmed Confederate defenders quickly surrendered. The Federals captured nearly 5,000 prisoners, 17 cannon, 46,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, and seven battle flags. While this was a Federal success, the fort itself held little strategic significance. Moreover, it diverted troops from the primary campaign against Vicksburg.

The prominent Confederate blockade runner, C.S.S. Alabama, sank U.S.S. Hatteras off Galveston, Texas. Hatteras had been on blockade duty when she was attacked by the stronger Alabama. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Missouri. In Missouri, John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates withdrew from Hartville. On the Mississippi River north of Memphis, Confederates surprised, captured, and burned U.S.S. Grampus No. 2.

Monday, January 12.  The third session of the 1st Confederate Congress assembled in Richmond and received a message from President Davis. The message criticized the Emancipation Proclamation because it could lead to the wholesale murder of blacks and slaveholders, thus revealing the “true nature of the designs” of the Republican Party. Davis requested legislation amending the draft laws and providing relief for citizens in war-torn regions of the South.

Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas. General John E. Wool assumed command of the Federal Department of the East.

Tuesday, January 13.  The U.S. War Department officially authorized the recruitment of blacks for the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, to be commanded by Colonel Thomas W. Higginson.

In Arkansas, a Federal expedition began from Helena. In Tennessee, a Federal reconnaissance began from Nashville to the Harpeth and Cumberland Rivers, and another Federal reconnaissance began from Murfreesboro. U.S.S. Columbia ran aground off North Carolina; the vessel was captured and burned by Confederates.

At the Harpeth Shoals on the Cumberland River in Tennessee, U.S. gunboat Slidell surrendered to General Joseph Wheeler’s Confederates. Three transports with wounded troops were also seized; Wheeler put the wounded all on one transport and allowed it to proceed, then burned the other two.

This Week in the Civil War: Dec 17-23, 1862

Wednesday, December 17.  General Ulysses S. Grant issued a controversial order expelling all Jews from his military department in Tennessee and Mississippi. Grant sought to end the widespread illegal speculation along the Mississippi River, but his order equated peddlers and speculators with Jews. This caused resentment among the Jewish people and carried social and political consequences for years.

Secretary of State William H. Seward and his son Frederick submitted their resignations due to ongoing political conflicts with Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. President Abraham Lincoln did not accept the Sewards’ resignations.Ongoing Federal expeditions continued in North Carolina, Virginia, and Missouri.

Thursday, December 18.  In Tennessee, General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates defeated Federal cavalry in Forrest’s ongoing campaign of disrupting Ulysses S. Grant’s supply and communication lines. Grant’s army was formally organized into four corps led by William T. Sherman, Stephen A. Hurlbut, James B. McPherson, and John McClernand.

President Lincoln met with a caucus of nine Republican senators at the White House who demanded that he reorganize his cabinet, including dismissing Secretary of State Seward.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis continued his southern tour by visiting Chattanooga. He wrote to Secretary of War James Seddon that the troops at Murfreesboro were in good spirits, but he expressed concern over anti-Confederate sentiment in eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama, as “there is some hostility and much want of confidence in our strength.”

The South Carolina legislature passed a law allowing the use of slave labor to bolster defenses.

Friday, December 19.  In Washington, President Lincoln met with the Republican caucus and all his cabinet members except Secretary of State Seward. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, another target of the “Radical” Republicans, offered to resign. Lincoln also summoned General Ambrose Burnside to Washington to discuss the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Virginia, with Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates attacking Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines at Jackson, Tennessee.

Saturday, December 20.  In Mississippi, Confederates under General Earl Van Dorn attacked Ulysses S. Grant’s huge supply depot at Holly Springs, captured at least 1,500 Federals, and destroyed about $1.5 million in military supplies. North of Holly Springs, Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked railroads and skirmished at Trenton and Humboldt. These raids forced Grant to withdraw his forces to La Grange, Tennessee. The raids also disrupted Grant’s plan to send William T. Sherman’s corps down the Mississippi River to the Chickasaw Bluffs north of Vicksburg.

In Washington, Treasury Secretary Chase submitted his resignation to President Lincoln. This gave Lincoln political leverage because the Radical Republicans supported Chase, and Lincoln informed them that if they insisted on removing Secretary of State Seward, then Chase would go as well. The Radicals relented, and Lincoln informed his cabinet that he would accept no resignations.

Sunday, December 21.  In Tennessee, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders left Alexandria to begin a raid on Federal supply lines in Kentucky. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Virginia. Various Federal forces also began expeditions in Virginia and Arkansas.

In Mississippi, President Jefferson Davis visited Vicksburg, where he wrote to General T.H. Holmes that it seemed “clearly developed that the enemy has two principal objects in view, one to get control of the Missi. River, and the other to capture the capital of the Confederate States.” However, Davis believed that the Federal defeat at Fredericksburg had stopped moves against Richmond for the winter. To prevent the Federals from capturing the Mississippi and “dismembering the Confederacy, we must mainly depend upon maintaining the points already occupied by defensive works: to-wit, Vicksburg and Port Hudson.”

Monday, December 22.  In Washington, President Lincoln conferred with General Burnside about the Fredericksburg debacle and the widespread blame going around for it. Lincoln issued an order congratulating the Army of the Potomac for its brave performance and called the defeat an “accident.”

John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders crossed the Cumberland River and invaded Kentucky. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia.

Tuesday, December 23.  President Davis visited Jackson, Mississippi, where he issued a proclamation calling Federal General Benjamin Butler a felon, an outlaw, a common enemy of mankind, and if captured he should not be held prisoner under articles of war but hanged immediately. This was a response to Butler’s tyrannical and corrupt military occupation of New Orleans; he had recently been replaced as commander of occupation forces by General Nathaniel Banks. Davis also wired Secretary of War Seddon, “There is immediate and urgent necessity for heavy guns and long range field pieces at Vicksburg.”

General Simon B. Buckner assumed command of the Confederate District of the Gulf, and General E. Kirby Smith resumed command of the Confederate Department of East Tennessee.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Arkansas, 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: 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)