This Week in the Civil War: Mar 18-24, 1863

Wednesday, March 18.  Confederate commissioner John Slidell and representatives of Emile Erlanger, head of France’s most influential bank, negotiated a loan to the Confederacy for $15 million to help finance the war. The loan was secured by the Confederate sale of 20-year war bonds that could be exchanged for cotton, the South’s most lucrative commodity. The cotton was to be sold to bondholders at 12 cents per pound when the market rate was 21 cents per pound. Some Confederate officials noted the enormous profit margin and accused Erlanger of extortion, but they were desperate for money so the loan was approved.

President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Congressman Henry Winter Davis of Maryland: “Let the friends of the government first save the government, then administer it to their own liking.” General Theophilus H. Holmes assumed command of the Confederate District of Arkansas.

Thursday, March 19.  In the South, the first bond sales on the new Erlanger loan took place. Initial sales were successful, but Federal agents in Europe spread rumors that Confederate securities were a poor risk and bid up the cost of war supplies so high that the Confederates could not afford to buy them. Many investors were ruined, Erlanger cleared $6 million in commissions, and the Confederacy was left with $9 million to pay for war.

On the Mississippi River, the Federal ships Hartford and Albatross under command of Flag Officer David G. Farragut passed the batteries at Grand Gulf, just south of Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

Friday, March 20.  Federal General Stephen A. Hurlbut informed President Lincoln of all the unsuccessful attempts to attack Vicksburg thus far. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Florida.

Saturday, March 21.  On the Mississippi River, Farragut’s Federal ships anchored below Vicksburg. Confederate sharpshooters harassed General William T. Sherman’s Federals at Steele’s Bayou. In Tennessee, Confederate guerrillas attacked a train traveling from Bolivar to Grand Junction.

In Louisiana, one Federal expedition left New Orleans for Ponchatoula, and another left Bonnet Carre for the Amite River. Federal General Edwin Sumner died; he had fought admirably on the Virginia Peninsula and at Antietam last year.

Sunday, March 22.  In Kentucky, Confederate under John Pegram began operations, while part of John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate force attempted to capture a Federal garrison at Mount Sterling. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Monday, March 23.  The Confederate Congress authorized funding Treasury notes issued previous to December 1, 1862 and further issuance of Treasury notes for not less than $5 or more than $50 each.

President Lincoln wrote to New York Governor Horatio Seymour, a Democratic opponent of his administration, that “there can not be a difference of purpose between you and me. If we should differ as to the means, it is important that such difference should be as small as possible–that it should not be enhanced by unjust suspicions on one side or the other.”

In Florida, Federal forces operated near Jacksonville. On the Mississippi River, Farragut’s Federal ships attacked Confederate batteries at Warrenton, below Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Tuesday, March 24.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals were stopped in their struggles north of Vicksburg in a skirmish at Black’s Bayou. This convinced Sherman to abandon the futile effort to reach Vicksburg through the maze of marshes and swamps north of the stronghold. Sherman’s withdrawal ended a series of unsuccessful efforts to attack Vicksburg from the north, and General Ulysses S. Grant began formulating a new plan of attack.

Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida. In Arkansas, Federal scouts began operating near Fayetteville.

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

This Week in the Civil War: Mar 11-17, 1863

Wednesday, March 11.  In Mississippi, Confederates blocked Federal gunboats from advancing on Vicksburg. The Confederates had quickly built Fort Pemberton out of earth and cotton bales, and they stopped the Federal effort to attack Vicksburg via the Yazoo River to the north.

Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky. In Baltimore, a Federal commander prohibited the sale of pictures of Confederate military and political leaders.

Thursday, March 12.  In Tennessee, a Federal expedition on the Duck River returned to Franklin. A Federal expedition in western Virginia began.

Friday, March 13.  In Mississippi, the Confederates at Fort Pemberton held firm against Federal gunboat attacks. In Richmond, an explosion caused by the accidental ignition of a friction primer killed or wounded 69 people at the Confederate Ordnance Laboratory; casualties included 62 women. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Saturday, March 14.  On the Mississippi River, a Federal naval squadron led by Flag Officer David G. Farragut attempted to pass the Confederate batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana. Federal troops under General Nathaniel Banks attempted to create a diversion to allow the ships to pass, but the vessels were pummeled by Confederate artillery. Only three of the seven ships managed to run the gauntlet and land between Port Hudson and Vicksburg. This proved that capturing Port Hudson would be more difficult for the Federals than anticipated.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Sunday, March 15.  In San Francisco, Federal authorities seized the ship J.M. Chapman as it was about to leave port allegedly carrying 20 secessionists and six cannons. In North Carolina, the British ship Britannia successfully ran the Federal blockade at Wilmington, even though the blockade was growing stronger. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Monday, March 16.  In Mississippi, General William T. Sherman and 11 Federal gunboats tried advancing through the twisting waterways from the Yazoo River to Steele’s Bayou, north of Vicksburg. However, Confederate obstructions in the water made progress virtually impossible.

In Tennessee, a Federal expedition from Jackson to Trenton began.

Tuesday, March 17.  In Virginia, the Battle of Kelly’s Ford occurred when Federal cavalry under General William Averell crossed the Rappahannock River to push Confederates away from Culpeper. In the first large-scale battle for the new Federal cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac, the Federals were repulsed after hard combat. However, they showed unprecedented fighting spirit. Moreover, the Confederate victory was tempered by the loss of rising star Major John Pelham, who was killed in action.

President Abraham Lincoln responded to a letter from General William Rosecrans complaining that the government was not supporting his efforts in Tenneseee, ”… you wrong both yourself and us, when you even suspect there is not the best disposition on the part of us all here to oblige you.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia.

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

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 11-17, 1863

Wednesday, February 11.  In Great Britain, Confederate envoy James Mason addressed a Lord Mayor’s banquet in London to push for British assistance.

Thursday, February 12.  On the Red River, the Federal gunboat Queen of the West destroyed Confederate wagons and supplies. On the White River in Arkansas, U.S.S. Conestoga captured two Confederate steamers. In the West Indies, the commerce raider C.S.S. Florida captured a clipper and cargo valued at $2 million.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and North Carolina.

Friday, February 13.  On the Mississippi River, the Federal gunboat Indianola under Lieutenant Commander George Brown passed the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg with two barges unharmed.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Saturday, February 14.  After veering down the Red River, the Federal gunboat Queen of the West destroyed a Confederate army train and captured New Era No. 5 before running aground. The crew escaped by floating to the Federal steamer De Soto on cotton bales.

Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and Arkansas.

Sunday, February 15.  Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Monday, February 16.  In Mississippi, skirmishing occurred as General Ulysses S. Grant tried moving gunboats and troops down Yazoo Pass. Confederate opposition prevented Grant from reaching Vicksburg.

Tuesday, February 17.  The Federal gunboat Indianola was posted at the mouth of the Red River on the Mississippi below Vicksburg to confront nearby Confederate vessels.

General Ulysses S. Grant rescinded the military order closing down the Chicago Times for allegedly publishing “disloyal statements.” In response to Federal General William S. Rosecrans’s complaints about Confederate raids on his camp in Tennessee, President Abraham Lincoln suggested that he conduct counter-raids. In Virginia, heavy snow covered the Federal and Confederate armies.

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)