This Week in the Civil War: Sep 2-8, 1863

Wednesday, September 2.  In eastern Tennessee, General Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Ohio entered Knoxville unopposed. The city had been virtually undefended, as most Confederates had left to join General Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga. The Federals were overwhelmingly welcomed by the predominantly pro-Union residents. The fall of Knoxville cut a key rail link between Chattanooga and Virginia, which forced Bragg to use a roundabout route through Georgia to supply his men.

In Charleston Harbor, the Federal bombardment lessened, but Federal troops entrenched themselves within 80 yards of Battery Wagner’s earthworks on Morris Island. The Alabama state legislature approved employing slaves in Confederate armies.

President Lincoln informed Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase that portions of Virginia and Louisiana could not be included under the Emancipation Proclamation because the “original proclamation has no constitutional or legal justification except as a military measure.”

A Federal expedition began from Martinsburg, West Virginia. Federal naval forces destroyed buildings and four small boats in a raid on Peace Creek, Florida. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, as Federal cavalry destroyed two Confederate (formerly Federal) gunboats on the Rappahannock River.

Thursday, September 3.  A portion of General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland skirmished with Braxton Bragg’s Confederates in Georgia as part of Rosecrans’s campaign to capture Chattanooga.

Federal troops fought Indians in California’s Hoopa Valley and in the Dakota Territory. Federal military operations began in the Humboldt Military District of California. Federal guns began pounding Battery Wagner.

Friday, September 4.  In Tennessee, William S. Rosecrans’s Federals continued their advance on Chattanooga. The Federals crossed the Tennessee River at Bridgeport, Alabama and Shellmound, Tennessee, and began encircling the city. Confederate President Jefferson Davis urged Braxton to hold Chattanooga while trying to muster reinforcements.

Federal transports and supply ships left New Orleans, advancing toward the Texas-Louisiana coast at Sabine Pass. This was the first of several moves by General Nathaniel Banks’s Federal Army of the Gulf to capture important points in Texas, both as an offensive against Confederates and as a display of force to the French occupying Mexico.

Women looted food and supply stores in Mobile, Alabama while carrying signs reading “Bread or Blood” and “Bread and Peace.” Southern discontent with the economy and hardships of war were becoming more prominent in the press. Federals scouted from Cold Water Grove, Missouri, and from Fort Lyon, Colorado toward Fort Larned, Kansas. Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas, Missouri and West Virginia.

Saturday, September 5.  U.S. Minister Charles Francis Adams informed British Lord John Russell that if Confederate ironclads left the British shipyards, “it would be superfluous for me to point out to your Lordship that this is war.” Two ships known as the “Laird Rams” were under construction in British navy yards, ostensibly to be used by the Confederacy. Unbeknownst to Adams, Russell had previously ordered the ships detained at Birkenhead. The “Laird Rams” were not delivered to the Confederacy, and an international crisis was averted.

In Charleston Harbor, Federals edged closer to the earthworks surrounding Battery Wagner as Federal artillery continued firing. Confederates repulsed a Federal attack on Fort Gregg on the north end of Morris Island. The Charleston Mercury stated that President Davis “has lost the confidence of both the army and the people.”

Meanwhile, President Davis urgently asked Braxton Bragg, “What is your proposed plan of operation (at Chattanooga)? Can you ascertain intention of enemy?… can you not cut his line of communication and compel him to retreat for want of supplies?”

William S. Rosecrans’s Federals skirmished with Confederates in Alabama and Georgia. Federals also skirmished in eastern Tennessee as they moved in on Cumberland Gap from Knoxville. Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas, and Federals battled Indians in the Dakota Territory.

Sunday, September 6.  In Charleston Harbor, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard evacuated Battery Wagner and Fort Gregg amidst the relentless Federal naval bombardment of the harbor forts. But Fort Sumter and Charleston held firm.

Monday, September 7.  In Charleston Harbor, Federals occupied Battery Wagner, which gave them a better position to fire upon Forts Sumter and Moultrie in the harbor.

Skirmishing occurred in Georgia, below Chattanooga. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri, and Kansas.

Tuesday, September 8.  In eastern Texas, a detachment of Federal transports and gunboats under General William Franklin occupied Sabine Pass and prepared to advance on Beaumont and Houston. The Confederates could muster only 47 defenders on the Sabine River, led by General John B. Magruder and Lieutenant Dick Dowling. Nevertheless, they destroyed a Federal gunboat from a nearby earthwork and forced the withdrawal of the remaining vessels. The humiliated Federals returned to New Orleans, while this small engagement greatly boosted Confederate morale in Texas.

In Charleston Harbor, Federal naval vessels bombarded the forts as the Federals prepared for a small-boat operation by night against Fort Sumter. William S. Rosecrans’s Federals skirmished in Alabama and Georgia. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, West Virginia, Louisiana, and the Arizona Territory.

President Davis informed General Robert E. Lee of the increasing threat to Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga; Davis said that he considered sending Lee west, but feared that Lee’s absence would demoralize the Army of Northern Virginia. Confederate Attorney General Thomas H. Watts resigned, having been elected governor of Alabama. He was replaced on an interim basis by Wade Keyes.

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: Aug 19-25, 1863

Wednesday, August 19.  In New York City, the Federal military draft resumed without incident; troops guarded the draft offices to prevent the violence that had occurred in July. In Charleston Harbor, Federal cannon blasted Confederate positions at Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner for a third day. In Florida, a Confederate signal station was captured at St. John’s Mill, and skirmishing occurred in West Virginia and Tennessee.

Thursday, August 20.  Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson’s Federals left Pueblo, Colorado to stop depredations against settlers by Navajo Indians in the New Mexico Territory. The Federal objective was to move the Indians to a reservation at Bosque Redondo on the Pecos near Fort Sumner.

In Tennessee, General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland approached the Tennessee River during their advance on Chattanooga. In addition, Federal troops were transferred from Kentucky to aid in the Federal offensive in eastern Tennessee.

In Charleston Harbor, Federal guns continued pummeling Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner. In Kansas, William C. Quantrill and about 450 Confederate raiders approached Lawrence. A Federal expedition began from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Monroe, Louisiana.

Friday, August 21.  William C. Quantrill’s Confederate raiders rampaged through Lawrence, Kansas. Quantrill’s men robbed the bank, killed 180 men, burned 185 buildings, and cost about $1.5 million in property damage. Quantrill’s main target–Republican Senator James Lane–escaped into a cornfield in his nightshirt. The attack was the result of bitterness from the Kansas border war, a prior Federal raid on Osceola, and Quantrill’s dislike of the anti-slavery town. An eyewitness said, “The town is a complete ruin. The whole of the business part, and all good private residences are burned down. Everything of value was taken along by the fiends… I cannot describe the horrors.”

Federal General Q.A. Gillmore threatened to bombard Charleston if Fort Sumter was not surrendered and Morris Island was not evacuated. The Confederates refused, and the Federal bombardment resumed. However, casualties remained low. A Confederate torpedo boat attempted to destroy a Federal ship, but its detonation device failed and it retreated under heavy fire.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Alabama as part of William Rosecrans’s Federal advance on Chattanooga. Skirmishing also occurred in West Virginia.

Saturday, August 22.  Fort Sumter was attacked by five naval vessels. Although there were few remaining guns to return fire, the Confederate defenders refused to surrender. Federal guns began firing on Charleston, but the famed Swamp Angel exploded while firing a round.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis worked to get reinforcements for General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee defending Chattanooga. In Kansas, skirmishing occurred as Quantrill’s Confederates left Lawrence in ruins. Skirmishing occurred in West Virginia, Tennessee, and the Arizona Territory.

Sunday, August 23.  The Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter temporarily ended after nearly 6,000 rounds had been fired into the fort, leaving it in ruins. In Virginia, Confederates captured two Federal gunboats at the mouth of the Rappahannock River, which caused irritation in the North. Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas, and Federals scouted Bennett’s Bayou, Missouri.

Monday, August 24.  In Virginia, John Singleton Mosby’s Confederate raiders began harassing Federals belonging to General George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac. Federal scouting also occurred at various points in Virginia.

The Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner decreased. Skirmishing occurred in Alabama.

Tuesday, August 25.  Responding to the Lawrence massacre and citizens aiding the Confederate raiders, Federal General Thomas Ewing, Jr., commanding from Kansas City, issued General Order No. 11. This compelled residents of four Missouri counties to abandon their homes and seek refuge at military posts if they could prove their loyalty to the Union. This forcibly relocated at least 20,000 people around Kansas City. As the residents left, pro-Union “Jayhawkers” looted their homes. Ewing’s order actually encouraged more Confederate guerrilla attacks by enraging local citizens against his Federal relocation policy.

In Charleston Harbor, Federal forces failed to capture Confederate rifle pits in front of Battery Wagner. In Virginia, Confederates captured three Federal schooners at the mouth of the Rappahannock River. In West Virginia, Federals destroyed Confederate saltpeter works on Jackson’s River. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri and Arkansas.

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