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)

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This Week in the Civil War: Dec 31, 1862-Jan 6, 1863

Wednesday, December 31.  In Tennessee, the Battle of Stone’s River (or Murfreesboro) began, as Federal General William Rosecrans and Confederate General Braxton Bragg resolved to attack each other. Both commanders planned to move left and crush the enemy right, but Bragg moved first and put the Federals on the defensive. After several Confederate assaults, the Federals withdrew to the Murfreesboro-Nashville Pike, pinned against Stone’s River.

Both sides inflicted heavy casualties, but the fighting was inconclusive and the Federal lines held. Bragg and Rosecrans remained within range of each other, each hoping that the other would withdraw. The Confederates entrenched, and the Federal command discussed the situation. Bragg prematurely wired the Confederate government that his men had scored a victory.

In Mississippi, General William T. Sherman’s Federals continued exploring various plans for attacking the bluffs north of Vicksburg.

In Tennessee, General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry was surprised by Federal forces at Parker’s Crossroad. After raiding General Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines, Forrest was confronting a Federal force in his front when a second force unexpectedly attacked from behind. When his staff asked for orders, Forrest said, “Split in two and charge both ways.” They followed the order and escaped, losing 300 troops.

Thursday, January 1.  In Washington, the traditional New Year’s reception took place in the White House. After receiving guests, President Abraham Lincoln retired to the Executive Office, where administration officials witnessed him signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Copies were sent to the press, and news of the signing was spread throughout the world. Although the proclamation technically freed nobody, it gave the U.S. a foreign relations advantage over the Confederacy. It also opened the path to permanently abolishing slavery. And perhaps most importantly, it authorized the recruitment of blacks into the military, giving the North an overwhelming manpower advantage. Celebrations and salutes were held among free blacks, former slaves, and abolitionists in Boston’s Tremont Temple.

Federal General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac, met with Lincoln to discuss a new plan of attack following the disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg the previous month. Lincoln informed the general that several army subordinates had no confidence in him. Burnside offered to resign, but Lincoln refused because he had no practical replacement. Hoping to redeem himself, Burnside promised to strike “a great and mortal blow to the rebellion” by moving north along the Rappahannock River and attacking Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s left flank. Lincoln reluctantly approved the plan.

In Texas, General John B. Magruder’s Confederates landed at Galveston to free the town from Federal occupation. Improvised gunboats landed on the lowlands, while cotton steamers attacked Federal ships in Galveston Harbor. When the Federal flagship was run aground, the naval flotilla abandoned the town, and the Federal garrison at Kuhn’s Wharf surrendered. The Confederate capture of Galveston temporarily broke the Federal naval blockade.

In Tennessee, General William Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland and General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee remained in their positions from the previous day, poised to strike each other at Stone’s River. In South Carolina, Robert Yeadon of Charleston offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of Federal General Benjamin F. Butler, dead or alive.

Friday, January 2.  In Tennessee, the Battle of Stone’s River (or Murfreesboro) resumed after a one-day respite. Braxton Bragg’s Confederates resumed their attacks, but the Federal lines had been strengthened and the attacks were repulsed. By nightfall, both armies fell back, and rain turned the battlefield into a quagmire.

Saturday, January 3.  In Tennessee, Braxton Bragg’s Confederates began withdrawing to Tullahoma. William Rosecrans was surprised by Bragg’s withdrawal and did not pursue. This prompted Bragg to claim a tactical victory, but it soon became apparent that this was a significant Confederate defeat. The Battle of Stone’s River secured Kentucky and Tennessee for the Federals. It also boosted the morale of pro-Union eastern Tennesseans and demoralized Confederate sympathizers in central Tennessee and Kentucky. Many Confederates saw this as a missed opportunity to destroy the northern war effort after the Federals had been so soundly beaten at Fredericksburg the previous month.

In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals began withdrawing from the bluffs north of Vicksburg across the Mississippi River to Milliken’s Bend. Their effort to capture Vicksburg ended in failure, but the overall commander, General Ulysses S. Grant, soon began developing another plan of attack. John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates recrossed the Cumberland River after raiding Federal supply lines in Kentucky. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates crossed the Tennessee River at Clifton after attacking Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines.

Sunday, January 4.  General John A. McClernand’s 30,000-man Federal force began an unauthorized move up the Arkansas River with 50 transports and gunboats commanded by Admiral David D. Porter. McClernand’s force included the corps belonging to William T. Sherman that had just withdrawn from Mississippi, and this move sought to avenge the Federal defeat at Chickasaw Bluffs last month. Their target was Arkansas Post, or Fort Hindman, on the Arkansas River.

Federal General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck ordered Ulysses S. Grant to rescind his controversial General Order No. 11 expelling all Jews from his military department. President Lincoln endorsed Halleck’s order, and Grant complied on January 7.

In Tennessee, various skirmishes occurred as Braxton Bragg’s Confederates continued withdrawing from Murfreesboro. In the New Mexico Territory, Federal forces began operations against various Indian tribes that continued until May. U.S.S. Quaker City captured a Confederate blockade-runner carrying important dispatches off Charleston, South Carolina.

Monday, January 5.  In Tennessee, Federal troops entered Murfreesboro as skirmishing continued. President Lincoln wired William Rosecrans, “God bless you and all with you… I can never forget… that you gave us a hard-earned victory, which, if there had been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over.” Rosecrans soon began planning a Federal advance on the vital railroad city of Chattanooga.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis returned to Richmond after completing his southern tour. Davis told a serenading crowd that the Confederacy was the last hope “for the perpetuation of that system of government which our forefathers founded–the asylum of the oppressed and the home of true representative liberty.” Davis added, “Every crime which could characterize the course of demons has marked the course of the invader.” Noting the recent victory at Fredericksburg, Davis quipped that the only Federals who had reached the Confederate capital thus far had been prisoners.

Tuesday, January 6.  General John Marmaduke’s Confederates raided Missouri and fought skirmishes at Linn Creek and Fort Lawrence, Beaver Station.

This Week in the Civil War: Dec 24-30, 1862

Wednesday, December 24.  In Texas, Federal forces occupied Galveston, which had already been partially occupied by naval forces since October. Galveston had been used as a port for Confederate blockade runners, but it was too far from the Confederate heartland to be an effective base.

In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders occupied Glasgow. A portion of General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal army under William T. Sherman moved down the Mississippi River from Memphis toward Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Thursday, December 25.  In Washington, President and Mrs. Lincoln spent Christmas Day visiting wounded soldiers at local hospitals. In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals approached Milliken’s Bend, north of Vicksburg. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates skirmished with Federals at various points. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Friday, December 26.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals landed on the south bank of the Yazoo River near Steele’s Bayou, seven miles from its confluence with the Mississippi River and four miles northwest of Chickasaw Bluffs.

In Tennessee, General William Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland moved out of Nashville to confront General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro. Rosecrans was slowed by attacks on his Kentucky railroad lines by John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates. General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry withdrew after disrupting major parts of General Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines in Tennessee and Mississippi.

In Minnesota, the largest mass execution in U.S. history took place, as 38 condemned Dakota Sioux Indians were hanged at Mankato for participating in the Dakota Sioux War earlier this year. The bodies were buried in a trench on the riverbank. The other 265 Indians convicted for participating in the war remained in military prisons. By this time, there were over 1,000 Dakota Sioux imprisoned throughout Minnesota for various crimes.

Saturday, December 27.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals continued moving slowly through the swamps, marshes, and bayous north of Vicksburg;  Confederate General John C. Pemberton began rushing troops in to defend the town. In Tennessee, various skirmishing occurred as William Rosecrans’s Federals continued advancing toward Braxton Bragg’s Confederates. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates captured a Federal garrison at Elizabethtown. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and North Carolina.

Sunday, December 28.  Various skirmishes occurred as William T. Sherman’s Federals advanced on Vicksburg and William Rosecrans’s Federals advanced on Murfreesboro. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, and Federals evacuated New Madrid, Missouri. In Arkansas, James Blunt’s Federal Army of the Frontier defeated Confederates at Dripping Springs, drove them through Van Buren, and captured about 40 wagons, four steamers, and other equipment.

Monday, December 29.  In Mississippi, the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs occurred as William T. Sherman’s Federals were repulsed by heavy fire from John C. Pemberton’s Confederate defenders on the foot of the bluffs near Chickasaw Bayou. The Federals suffered 1,776 casualties, while the Confederates lost only 207. Fog disrupted a second Federal attack, and Sherman admitted failure. To many northerners, this battle seemed painfully similar to Fredericksburg. This defeat, combined with constant raids on Federal supplies, marked a discouraging beginning to Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign to capture Vicksburg.

In Tennessee, skirmishing continued between William Rosecrans’s Federals and Braxton Bragg’s Confederates. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates skirmished at Johnson’s Ferry and captured a stockade at Boston.

Tuesday, December 30.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals remained pinned at the foot of the Chickasaw Bluffs north of Vicksburg. In Tennessee, William Rosecrans’s Federals came within range of Braxton Bragg’s Confederates at Murfreesboro. In eastern Tennessee, S.P. Carter’s Federals captured Union and Carter’s Depot. In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederates fought various skirmishes as they began withdrawing.

In Washington, President Lincoln presented a draft of the final Emancipation Proclamation, to be issued on January 1. He also wired General Ambrose Burnside about dissension and low morale within the Army of the Potomac: “I have good reason for saying you must not make a general movement of the army without letting me know.”

The first Federal ironclad warship, U.S.S. Monitor, sank in stormy seas while being towed off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Sixteen men died in the sinking ship, while 47 survivors were rescued by nearby steamer Rhode Island. Though Monitor had defeated C.S.S. Virginia in the famed Battle of the Ironclads in March, she had never been very seaworthy.

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