This Week in the Civil War: Aug 12-18, 1863

Wednesday, August 12.  On the South Carolina coast, Federal cannon began firing on Confederate positions at Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner in Charleston Harbor. This was an effort to test the range of the heavy Parrott rifles, but it began a new Federal offensive against the harbor. Fort Sumter was severely damaged by the batteries.

President Abraham Lincoln refused to grant an army command to General John McClernand, who had been relieved as corps commander by General Ulysses S. Grant for insubordination. A Federal expedition began from Memphis, Tennessee to Grenada, Mississippi. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi.

Thursday, August 13.  A Confederate army chaplain wrote to President Jefferson Davis “that every disaster that has befallen us in the West has grown out of the fact that weak and inefficient men have been kept in power… I beseech of you to relieve us of these drones and pigmies.” The recent Confederate defeats had caused dissension among the ranks, especially in the Western Theater. The chaplain cited General John C. Pemberton, who had surrendered at Vicksburg in July, and General Theophilus H. Holmes, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department.

Federals continued their practice fire on Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner from land batteries and naval guns. In Arkansas, a Federal expedition began up the White and Little Red Rivers. Federals also began an expedition against Indians in the Dakota Territory. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and Missouri.

Friday, August 14.  Federals continued their practice fire in Charleston Harbor. General George G. Meade, commander of the Federal Army of the Potomac, met with President Lincoln and his cabinet to provide details of the Gettysburg Campaign. In Virginia, Federal expeditions began near Winchester and the Bull Run Mountains. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Saturday, August 15.  In Virginia, a Federal expedition against Confederate partisans began from Centreville. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Arkansas.

Sunday, August 16.  In Tennessee, General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland began advancing on Chattanooga. Since Rosecrans had captured Tullahoma in July, the Lincoln administration had repeatedly urged him to continue his advance. Rosecrans had initially hesitated because his flanks were threatened by Confederates in Mississippi and eastern Tennessee. However, Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals now opposed the Confederates in Mississippi, and Ambrose Burnside’s Federals opposed Confederates in eastern Tennessee.

Rosecrans planned to cross the Tennessee River south and west of Chattanooga, hoping to trap General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee between his forces and Burnside’s. Meanwhile, Bragg desperately pleaded for President Davis to send him reinforcements. Confederate scouts informed Bragg that Rosecrans was advancing from the southwest at Stevenson while Burnside began moving on Knoxville. Bragg remained entrenched at Chattanooga, unsure of which force to fight.

Federals continued practice firing on Confederate targets in Charleston Harbor. Work crews hurried to repair damages to Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner before Federal artillery damaged them again.

President Lincoln wrote to New York Governor Horatio Seymour regarding the military draft: “My purpose is to be just and fair; and yet to not lose time.” A Federal expedition began from Memphis, Tennessee to Hernando, Mississippi. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Mississippi.

Monday, August 17.  On the South Carolina coast, Federal artillery opened in earnest against Fort Sumter and Batteries Wagner and Gregg. The 11 cannon on Morris Island included the 200-pound “Swamp Angel,” and were joined by naval guns in firing 938 shots that crumbled Sumter’s walls. But the rubble formed an even stronger defense against Federal fire.

Federal expeditions began from Cape Girardeau and Pilot Knob, Missouri to Pocahontas, Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Tuesday, August 18.  Federals continued their heavy bombardment of Fort Sumter and Batteries Wagner and Gregg. Confederate positions were severely damaged, but the troops refused to surrender.

In Washington, President Lincoln tested the new Spencer repeating rifle in Treasury Park. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Federals clashed with Indians in the New Mexico Territory.

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

3 thoughts on “This Week in the Civil War: Aug 12-18, 1863

  1. Pingback: This Week in the Civil War: Aug 12-18, 1863 | ... tacticalpreacher ...

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