This Week in the Civil War: May 27-Jun 2, 1863

Wednesday, May 27.  In Louisiana, a massed Federal assault on Port Hudson failed, as the attackers became tangled in underbrush and fallen timbers. The Confederates held a strong position atop a bluff that commanded both the land and river approaches to Port Hudson. Federal commander Nathaniel Banks decided to place Port Hudson under siege.

President Abraham Lincoln wired General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac in northern Virginia, and General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Federal Army of the Cumberland at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to provide information about their movements.

Confederate cannon at Vicksburg shelled Federal gunboats on the Mississippi River, sinking Cincinnati and killing 40 men. C.S.S. Chattahoochee accidentally exploded on the Chattahoochee River, killing 18. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

Thursday, May 28.  The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment left Boston for Hilton Head, South Carolina as the first black regiment sent south. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and the Indian Territory.

Friday, May 29.  President Lincoln refused General Ambrose Burnside’s offer to resign as commander of the Department of the Ohio. Burnside had drawn heavy criticism by arresting former Congressman Clement Vallandigham for speaking out against the war. Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton had denounced Burnside’s actions because they increased anti-war sentiment in the North.

Saturday, May 30.  General Robert E. Lee divided the Army of Northern Virginia into three corps: First Corps was commanded by General James Longstreet, Second Corps (formerly “Stonewall” Jackson’s command) was commanded by General Richard Ewell, and Third Corps was commanded by General A.P. Hill.

In New Jersey, Democrats met at Newark to protest the arrest of Clement Vallandigham. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas.

Sunday, May 31.  In Richmond, Robert E. Lee met with Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet. To relieve the pressure caused by Ulysses S. Grant’s relentless assault on Vicksburg in the West, Lee proposed a second invasion of the North. This would allow Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to feed off the rich northern farmlands and potentially force Grant to send troops east to stop the advance. Davis was uncertain, and some cabinet members believed that Lee should instead send troops west to relieve Vicksburg.

Davis also discussed the Western Theater with Lee, saying, “Genl. Johnston did not, as you thought advisable, attack Grant promptly, and I fear the result is that which you anticipated if time was given.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and South Carolina.

Monday, June 1.  In Richmond, Jefferson Davis and his cabinet voted five-to-one in favor of approving Robert E. Lee’s plan to invade the North.

Ambrose Burnside issued a general order: “On account of the repeated expression of disloyal and incendiary sentiments, the publication of the newspaper known as the Chicago Times is hereby suppressed.” This order outraged many northerners, especially since it came so soon after Burnside’s controversial arrest of Clement Vallandigham. Chicago leaders appealed to President Lincoln to rescind Burnside’s order.

Federals heavily bombarded the besieged Confederates at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Tuesday, June 2.  President Lincoln wired General Ulysses S. Grant, commanding the Federals at Vicksburg, “Are you in communication with Gen. Banks? Is he coming toward you, or going further off?” Lincoln wanted the two armies to link rather than conduct separate operations at Vicksburg and Port Hudson.

Having been banished to the South, Clement Vallandigham was sent to Wilmington, North Carolina by President Davis and put under guard as an “alien enemy.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

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

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This Week in the Civil War: May 6-12, 1863

Wednesday, May 6.  In Virginia, General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia advanced into the Wilderness, but the opposing Federal Army of the Potomac had already withdrawn, ending the Battle of Chancellorsville. General A.P. Hill assumed command of the Confederate Second Corps, replacing the wounded General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

Jackson was brought to a farmhouse south of Fredericksburg to recuperate from wounds suffered during the Battle of Chancellorsville. After being shot in the left arm and hand on May 2, Jackson had his arm amputated below the shoulder.

In Ohio, a military tribunal convicted former Congressman Clement Vallandigham of expressing treasonable sympathies and disloyal utterances aimed at “weakening the power of the Government (to put down) an unlawful rebellion.” Vallandigham was sentenced to two years in a military prison. Such a harsh punishment sparked protests throughout the North, as many argued that Vallandigham had merely exercised his right to free speech by speaking out against the war. President Abraham Lincoln publicly supported Vallandigham’s arrest, but he knew the sentence would have political consequences.

In Louisiana, a Federal naval flotilla under Admiral David D. Porter occupied Alexandria. In Tennessee, a group of disloyal Federal citizens were sent into Confederate lines at Nashville. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, western Virginia, and Missouri.

Thursday, May 7.  In Mississippi, General William T. Sherman’s Federals joined Ulysses S. Grant’s main force south of Vicksburg. The large Federal army began advancing toward the railroad linking Vicksburg and the state capital of Jackson. Confederate President Jefferson Davis wired General John Pemberton, commanding at Vicksburg, “Am anxiously expecting further information of your active operations… To hold both Vicksburg and Port Hudson is necessary to our connection with Trans-Mississippi. You may expect whatever it is in my power to do for your aid.”

Confederate General Earl Van Dorn was assassinated by Dr. George Peters in Spring Hill, Tennessee after rumors had circulated that Van Dorn had a “liaison” with Peters’s wife. Most fellow officers acknowledged that Van Dorn was a notorious ladies’ man, and thus his murder came as no surprise.

In Virginia, President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck met with General Joseph Hooker at his Army of the Potomac headquarters. Hooker proposed an immediate Federal offensive to avenge his army’s fiasco at Chancellorsville, but Lincoln, worried that troop morale could be destroyed with another failure, instructed Hooker to wait.

Friday, May 8.  President Lincoln issued a proclamation stating that immigrants who had declared an intent to become U.S. citizens would not be exempted from military service; this sought to offset the wave of people claiming to be aliens to avoid the impending draft.

Saturday, May 9.  Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston was ordered to assume command of all troops in Mississippi. Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals skirmished near Utica. Other skirmishing occurred in Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee.

Sunday, May 10.  “Stonewall” Jackson died in Virginia. Jackson had contracted pneumonia while recovering from battle wounds, and it could not be medically treated. When told by his wife that he would not survive the day, Jackson said, “Very good, very good. It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday.” Confederate General Robert E. Lee issued General Order No. 61: “With deep regret the commanding general announces the death of Lieutenant General T.J. Jackson… Let his officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do everything in the defense of our loved Country.”

Jackson lay in state in the Confederate Capitol as people throughout the South mourned the loss of one of the Confederacy’s greatest leaders. He was buried in Lexington, where he had taught at the Virginia Military Institute before the war.

Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana and Kentucky.

Monday, May 11.  President Lincoln refused to accept the resignation of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase; Chase had threatened to resign due to a disagreement with Lincoln over the appointment of an official. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Virginia, and Tennessee.

Tuesday, May 12.  In Mississippi, a division of Ulysses S. Grant’s army was attacked by Confederates at Raymond. After several hours of fighting, the outnumbered Confederates withdrew toward Jackson; each side suffered about 500 casualties. This and other skirmishes prompted Grant to advance on Jackson before attacking Vicksburg. Meanwhile, Joseph E. Johnston struggled to give aid to John Pemberton’s Confederates in Vicksburg.

General Simon B. Buckner assumed command of the Confederate Department of East Tennessee. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Missouri, and 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: Sep 17-23, 1862

Wednesday, September 17.  The bloodiest single day of the war occurred at the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland. General Robert E. Lee’s outnumbered Confederate Army of Northern Virginia assembled along Antietam Creek to meet the attack by General George B. McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac. The first wave of assaults took place on the Confederate left against General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps in the woods, the cornfield, the Bloody Lane, and the Dunkard Church. Federal gains were small and costly. The battle then shifted to the center of the Confederate line, with uncoordinated Federal attacks again achieving little. Finally, the battle moved to the Confederate right, where Federals crossing a bridge finally broke through and headed for Sharpsburg. However, they were halted by General A.P. Hill’s “Light Division” arriving from Harpers Ferry to save Lee’s army. McClellan’s piecemeal attacks and failure to use all his reserves also helped save the Confederate army from destruction. The battle ended when McClellan disengaged, making it a draw. Total casualties for this single day were estimated at over 26,000 killed, wounded, or missing. In Kentucky, a Federal garrison of over 4,000 men surrendered to General Braxton Bragg’s Confederates. Federal General Ormsby M. Mitchel assumed command of the Department of the South, stationed along the southeastern coast.

Thursday, September 18.  In the evening, Robert E. Lee began withdrawing the remnants of his army from Maryland. George McClellan did not attack, despite having up to 24,000 fresh reserves. Lee’s withdrawal made the Battle of Antietam a tactical Federal victory, even though McClellan ignored pleas from President Abraham Lincoln to pursue and destroy Lee’s army. On the Atlantic Ocean, the Confederate commerce raider C.S.S. Alabama destroyed the whaler Elisha Dunbar off New Bedford, Massachusetts. Braxton Bragg announced that his Confederate troops had come to Kentucky to free the people from tyranny, not as conquerors or despoilers. Federal General James H. Carleton replaced General E.R.S. Canby as commander of the Department of New Mexico.

Friday, September 19.  In Mississippi, Federals under General William Rosecrans defeated General Sterling Price’s Confederates at the Battle of Iuka. Rosecrans had arrived at Iuka as part of General Ulysses S. Grant’s advance guard, and the Confederates sought to prevent Grant from reinforcing General Don Carlos Buell in Kentucky. Price was awaiting the arrival of General Earl Van Dorn’s Confederates when the battle occurred. Rosecrans, knowing that Federal reinforcements were forthcoming, withdrew southward during the night. The Federal Department of the Missouri was reestablished, and the Department of Kansas was discontinued. In Maryland, George McClellan’s halfhearted pursuit of Robert E. Lee was halted by Confederate artillery.

Saturday, September 20.  In Maryland, George McClellan’s Federals made one last effort at catching Robert E. Lee’s Confederates, but the Federals were repulsed at various points. In Washington, President Lincoln prepared the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which he had first introduced to his cabinet in July.

Sunday, September 21.  In Kentucky, Braxton Bragg’s Confederates advanced to Bardstown in preparation for linking with General Edmund Kirby Smith’s forces. However, this enabled Don Carlos Buell’s Federals to reach Louisville. In California, San Francisco residents raised $100,000 for aid to wounded and sick Federal troops.

Monday, September 22.  In Washington, President Lincoln presented the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet. Lincoln had been waiting for a military victory to issue the order, and Antietam provided the opportunity. The proclamation technically freed no one since it only applied to slaves in states that rebelled against the U.S.; it exempted rebellious states from freeing their slaves if those states rejoined the U.S. before January 1, and it exempted regions under Federal military occupation. Lincoln also called for congressional approval of compensated emancipation. Thus, the path was partially opened toward a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery.

Tuesday, September 23.  In the Dakota Territory, Federals clashed with Indians at Fort Abercrombie. In Minnesota, Federals under H.H. Sibley defeated the Sioux Indians at the Battle of Wood Lake as part of the Dakota War. On the Ohio River, Confederate guerrillas plundered the steamer Emma at Foster’s Landing. In Tennessee, Federals retaliated against an attack on a ship by burning the town of Randolph. Word of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was beginning to spread throughout the North.

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

This Week in the Civil War: Sep 10-16, 1862

Wednesday, September 10:  In Maryland, Federal cavalry informed General George McClellan that General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was falling back toward the Monocacy River, away from Frederick. McClellan responded by accelerating his previously sluggish pursuit. As Confederates advanced north in Kentucky, 1,000 “squirrel hunters” volunteered in Cincinnati to defend against a possible Confederate invasion.

Thursday, September 11:  In Maryland, Lee’s Confederates entered Hagerstown, and skirmishing with Federal forces increased. Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin called for 50,000 volunteers to defend the state. In Kentucky, Confederates under General Edmund Kirby Smith occupied Maysville. Skirmishing intensified as the Confederates came within seven miles of Cincinnati.

Friday, September 12:  In Maryland, McClellan’s Federals reached Frederick as Lee’s Confederates began dispersing in accordance with Special Orders No. 191. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederate corps approached Harpers Ferry, and skirmishing took place over the next five days. In Kentucky, Confederates occupied Glasgow as skirmishing continued. The Federal Army of Virginia was officially absorbed into McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. In Pennsylvania, assets and archives were transfered from Harrisburg and Philadelphia to New York. The Confederate Congress debated the wisdom of the northern invasion. President Jefferson Davis wrote to the governors of Texas, Missouri, Louisiana, and Arkansas attempting to assure them that the Trans-Mississippi theater of war was not being ignored.

Saturday, September 13:  In Maryland, two Federal soldiers found a copy of Robert E. Lee’s Special Orders No. 191. They were forwarded to George McClellan, who now knew that Lee’s forces were divided. McClellan pushed his Federals west, while Lee learned that McClellan had found his order. Skirmishing intensified. In western Virginia, Federals evacuated Charleston as Confederates under General W.W. Loring advanced from the Kanawha Valley. In New Orleans, General Benjamin Butler, commander of Federal occupation forces, ordered all foreigners to register with Federal authorities.

Sunday, September 14:  In Maryland, the left wing of George McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac advanced toward Crampton’s Gap to cut off the Confederates at Harpers Ferry and divide Lee’s army. Meanwhile, another Federal force attacked Confederates at South Mountain. After hard fighting, the Confederates withdrew; Federal General Jesse Reno was killed. This became known as the Battle of South Mountain. Meanwhile, “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates lay siege to the Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry. In Kentucky, General Braxton Bragg’s Confederates reached Munfordville. Federals under General Don Carlos Buell hurried ahead of Bragg and reached Bowling Green. In Mississippi, a third phase of the overall Confederate offensive began taking shape when Confederates under General Sterling Price occupied Iuka near Corinth.

Monday, September 15:  In Virginia (now West Virginia), “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates captured Harpers Ferry, taking about 12,000 prisoners. In Maryland, Robert E. Lee’s Confederates at South Mountain fell back to Sharpsburg. Lee was hurriedly concentrating his scattered forces before George McClellan’s Federals could launch a full-scale attack. Lee originally planned to withdraw, but when he learned that Jackson had captured Harpers Ferry, he began forming a line along Antietam Creek. In Kentucky, Edmund Kirby Smith’s Confederates reached Covington across the Ohio River from Cincinnati but quickly withdrew. Braxton Bragg’s Confederates lay siege to Munfordville. 

Tuesday, September 16:  In Maryland, Robert E. Lee gathered his Army of Northern Virginia and established battle lines along Antietam Creek. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates arrived on the scene after a hard march from Harpers Ferry, while one of Jackson’s divisions under General A.P. Hill remained behind to accept the garrison’s surrender. George McClellan faced criticism for not attacking today. In Kentucky, Bragg continued his siege of 4,000 Federals at Munfordville. Smith’s Confederates withdrew from the Ohio River toward Lexington. President Abraham Lincoln, unable to contact McClellan, wired Governor Curtin of Pennsylvania: “What do you hear from Gen. McClellan’s army?”