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General Ulysses S. Grant rescinded the military order closing down the Chicago Times for allegedly publishing “disloyal statements.”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)

Portraits of Wounded Bodies: Photographs of Civil War Soldiers from Harewood Hospital, Washington, D.C., 1863-1866

If you are in the vicinity of Yale University, consider checking this exhibit out. I do want to warn that some of these images are quite graphic and show the horrors of war. To view the online images, click here.

Portraits of Wounded Bodies:  Photographs of Civil War Soldiers from Harewood Hospital, Washington, D.C., 1863-1866

January 16th-April 1st, 2013

Tours open to all on Wed. Jan. 23rd, 4 p.m., and Friday Jan. 25th at noon!

One hundred and fifty years ago, the Civil War raged throughout the United States, creating thousands of casualties.  On view now, the Medical Historical Library explores Civil War medicine through the haunting photographs of wounded soldiers.  Curated by Heidi Knoblauch, a doctoral student in Yale’s Section of the History of Medicine, and Melissa Grafe, John R. Bumstead Librarian for Medical History, selections from a set of 93 photographic portraits from Harewood Hospital, Washington D.C. are on display in the Rotunda of the Medical Library.  These images, some quite graphic, depict soldiers recovering from a variety of wounds, including gunshot wounds.  The soldiers’ case histories and stories, analyzed by Heidi Knoblauch, are part of a larger examination of medical photography and Civil War memory as America commemorates the 150th anniversary of the war.  In the foyer of Sterling Hall, the exhibit expands to include a larger discussion of Civil War medicine and surgery, including hospitals and nurses, using images and materials from the Medical Historical Library.  An online version of the Harewood Hospital photographs is available in the Digital Library of the Medical Historical Library.

This exhibit is on display at the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, 333 Cedar Street. For more information, contact Melissa Grafe, Ph.D, John R. Bumstead Librarian for Medical History, at

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.

The Slaves’ Gamble a look at African Americans in the War of 1812

Cross-posted to Frontier Battles

While a little outside the chronological range covered by this blog, I thought I would share exciting news about a new book that seeks to alter our impression of antebellum slavery through the lens of the War of 1812.


Smith, Gene Allen. The Slaves’ Gamble:  Choosing Sides in the War of 1812.  New York:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.  272pp. $27.00.

Gene Allen Smith, historian at Texas Christian University, has written an interesting examination of how slaves viewed and used the conflict for their own opportunities.  He showed that the war saw all sides using African Americans to aid their causes, while blacks saw the war as their chance to assert themselves, whether for seeking equality, in the case of free blacks, or freedom for slaves.  Further, the war was a turning point in American race relations, as Smith noted that slavery was in a tenuous situation on war’s eve.

He noted that the war drastically altered this path of decline and that it further halted any potential progress towards freedom or equality, as blacks who joined British forces, seeking to better their lot in life, returned with invading forces, leading enemy troops into American communities. The consequence of this was a greater distrust among whites of arming slaves and enrolling blacks in militia units to augment white manpower, which continued into the Civil War, where African Americans served in segregated regiments with white officers. One of the other major problems resulting from the war was the expansion of available land for plantation agriculture, and plantation-based slavery.(3-4)

Smith begins his study by examining the story of black participation in North American wars. What is great about this chapter is the examination of the cross-cultural interactions, echoing Richard White’s remarkable work The Middle Ground. He concluded that the contributions of blacks to military conflicts during the colonial and revolutionary periods redefined the relationships between blacks and whites in North America.(31)

As he examined the role of blacks during the War of 1812, he weaved in the stories of black participants across the various theaters, providing a new and exciting understanding of the war that is as important to the larger field of study on the war as Donald Hickey. Smith concluded that blacks found became aware that their contributions to the war were minimized in post-war America. Further, white Americans began to react fearfully to black insurrection possibilities and worked to prevent the arming of blacks. Also, northern states began enacting laws outlawing blacks residing in them. Slavery became more entrenched in the South, as new areas were available for cotton production. Thus the war served as the last opportunity for blacks to attempt to fight for their place in society until the Civil War.(210-214)

The book is well researched, relying on sources from such scholars as Richard White, Gary Nash, Ian Steele, Stagg, and Don Hickey. In addition to strong secondary sources, Smith utilized several great primary sources that considered black participation, as well as interactions with Native Americans.

A good monograph that examines the difficult situation faced by blacks as they attempted to choose a side in the War of 1812 to further their position, Smith’s The Slaves’ Gamble is a great book for scholars interested in African American history, military history, the War of 1812, and is a good book for those interested in the Civil War, as it illustrates quite well how the forces that led to that great struggle came into being by America’s “second war for independence”.

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)