This Week in the Civil War: Dec 17-23, 1862

Wednesday, December 17.  General Ulysses S. Grant issued a controversial order expelling all Jews from his military department in Tennessee and Mississippi. Grant sought to end the widespread illegal speculation along the Mississippi River, but his order equated peddlers and speculators with Jews. This caused resentment among the Jewish people and carried social and political consequences for years.

Secretary of State William H. Seward and his son Frederick submitted their resignations due to ongoing political conflicts with Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. President Abraham Lincoln did not accept the Sewards’ resignations.Ongoing Federal expeditions continued in North Carolina, Virginia, and Missouri.

Thursday, December 18.  In Tennessee, General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates defeated Federal cavalry in Forrest’s ongoing campaign of disrupting Ulysses S. Grant’s supply and communication lines. Grant’s army was formally organized into four corps led by William T. Sherman, Stephen A. Hurlbut, James B. McPherson, and John McClernand.

President Lincoln met with a caucus of nine Republican senators at the White House who demanded that he reorganize his cabinet, including dismissing Secretary of State Seward.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis continued his southern tour by visiting Chattanooga. He wrote to Secretary of War James Seddon that the troops at Murfreesboro were in good spirits, but he expressed concern over anti-Confederate sentiment in eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama, as “there is some hostility and much want of confidence in our strength.”

The South Carolina legislature passed a law allowing the use of slave labor to bolster defenses.

Friday, December 19.  In Washington, President Lincoln met with the Republican caucus and all his cabinet members except Secretary of State Seward. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, another target of the “Radical” Republicans, offered to resign. Lincoln also summoned General Ambrose Burnside to Washington to discuss the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Virginia, with Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates attacking Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines at Jackson, Tennessee.

Saturday, December 20.  In Mississippi, Confederates under General Earl Van Dorn attacked Ulysses S. Grant’s huge supply depot at Holly Springs, captured at least 1,500 Federals, and destroyed about $1.5 million in military supplies. North of Holly Springs, Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked railroads and skirmished at Trenton and Humboldt. These raids forced Grant to withdraw his forces to La Grange, Tennessee. The raids also disrupted Grant’s plan to send William T. Sherman’s corps down the Mississippi River to the Chickasaw Bluffs north of Vicksburg.

In Washington, Treasury Secretary Chase submitted his resignation to President Lincoln. This gave Lincoln political leverage because the Radical Republicans supported Chase, and Lincoln informed them that if they insisted on removing Secretary of State Seward, then Chase would go as well. The Radicals relented, and Lincoln informed his cabinet that he would accept no resignations.

Sunday, December 21.  In Tennessee, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders left Alexandria to begin a raid on Federal supply lines in Kentucky. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Virginia. Various Federal forces also began expeditions in Virginia and Arkansas.

In Mississippi, President Jefferson Davis visited Vicksburg, where he wrote to General T.H. Holmes that it seemed “clearly developed that the enemy has two principal objects in view, one to get control of the Missi. River, and the other to capture the capital of the Confederate States.” However, Davis believed that the Federal defeat at Fredericksburg had stopped moves against Richmond for the winter. To prevent the Federals from capturing the Mississippi and “dismembering the Confederacy, we must mainly depend upon maintaining the points already occupied by defensive works: to-wit, Vicksburg and Port Hudson.”

Monday, December 22.  In Washington, President Lincoln conferred with General Burnside about the Fredericksburg debacle and the widespread blame going around for it. Lincoln issued an order congratulating the Army of the Potomac for its brave performance and called the defeat an “accident.”

John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders crossed the Cumberland River and invaded Kentucky. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia.

Tuesday, December 23.  President Davis visited Jackson, Mississippi, where he issued a proclamation calling Federal General Benjamin Butler a felon, an outlaw, a common enemy of mankind, and if captured he should not be held prisoner under articles of war but hanged immediately. This was a response to Butler’s tyrannical and corrupt military occupation of New Orleans; he had recently been replaced as commander of occupation forces by General Nathaniel Banks. Davis also wired Secretary of War Seddon, “There is immediate and urgent necessity for heavy guns and long range field pieces at Vicksburg.”

General Simon B. Buckner assumed command of the Confederate District of the Gulf, and General E. Kirby Smith resumed command of the Confederate Department of East Tennessee.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Arkansas, 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)

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

Wednesday, December 10.  In Virginia, General Ambrose Burnside’s Federal Army of the Potomac increased activity at Falmouth, indicating that an attack on Fredericksburg was imminent. In North Carolina, Confederates captured a Federal garrison at Plymouth. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill approving the secession of the western part of the state from Virginia. The Senate had already passed a measure creating the state of West Virginia on July 14.

Thursday, December 11.  In Virginia, Federal engineers began constructing pontoon bridge for Burnside’s army to cross the Rappahannock River and enter Fredericksburg. The engineers were under fire from Confederate sharpshooters until Federal artillery cleared them out. Federal forces crossed into Fredericksburg on two bridges and drove the Confederates out of town. Confederate General Robert E. Lee awaited the invasion; the only mystery was where the Federals would strike. In northern Mississippi, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest led about 2,500 men in a raid on Federal General Ulysses S. Grant’s communications.

Friday, December 12.  In Virginia, Federal troops continued crossing the Rappahannock and entering Fredericksburg. Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson positioned his corps on Lee’s right flank, while General James Longstreet’s corps assembled on the left. It was apparent that there would be a Federal attack the next day. On the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the Federal ironclad Cairo struck a mine and sank; the crew escaped. In response to rumors of peace overtures, President Abraham Lincoln wrote to New York Mayor Fernando Wood that if the southern states ceased resistance to national authority, “the war would cease on the part of the United States.”

Saturday, December 13.  The Battle of Fredericksburg took place as the Federal Army of the Potomac attacked the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia outside town. Federal attacks on “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps were repulsed. The Federals then attacked Longstreet’s corps positioned on a ridge outside town called Mayre’s Heights. After brutal, desperate fighting, the Federals were easily repulsed and their assault failed miserably. Ambrose Burnside’s eagerness to fight Robert E. Lee had led to one of the worst Federal defeats of the war.

In Tennessee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis continued his tour of the South by reviewing General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro and conferring with the generals.

Sunday, December 14.  In Virginia, Ambrose Burnside ordered a renewed attack on Fredericksburg, but his officers persuaded him to change his mind. Robert E. Lee was criticized in the South for failing to counterattack, even though his men were vastly outnumbered. In Washington, President Lincoln held conferences with his generals and advisers. In North Carolina, Federal forces under General John G. Foster captured Kingston. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Virginia.

Monday, December 15.  In Virginia, the beaten Federal Army of the Potomac completed its withdrawal back across the Rappahannock River and away from Fredericksburg. Many army officers complained about Burnside’s decisions. In Louisiana, General Benjamin Butler relinquished command of the Federal Department of the Gulf, headquartered in New Orleans. The city’s residents were ecstatic to see the controversial general leave. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Missouri.

Tuesday, December 16.  In Virginia, the Federal Army of the Potomac established positions on Stafford Heights overlooking the Rappahannock. In Louisiana, General Nathaniel Banks assumed command of the Federal Department of the Gulf. In North Carolina, John G. Foster’s Federals skirmished with Confederates at White Hall and Mount Olive Station. President Lincoln postponed the execution of Dakota Sioux Indians (imprisoned for conducting the Dakota Sioux uprising this summer) from December 19 to December 26.

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: Nov 5-11, 1862

Wednesday, November 5.  President Abraham Lincoln relieved General George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing him with General Ambrose Burnside. After several months of frustration, Lincoln had finally lost patience with McClellan’s lack of action, particularly McClellan’s failure to follow up his partial victory at Antietam and his slow advance against the Confederates in Virginia since then. Also dismissed was corps commander Fitz-John Porter, a pro-McClellan general who was charged with willful disobedience for actions in the Battle of Second Bull Run. Various skirmishes occurred in Missouri, Mississippi, and Virginia.

Thursday, November 6.  The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was reorganized, as James Longstreet and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were promoted from major general to lieutenant general and given command of the First and Second Corps respectively. Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Friday, November 7.  In Virginia, General McClellan was informed that he had been relieved of duty. This ended one of the most controversial military careers of the war. His successor, Ambrose Burnside, had tried to turn down the promotion but accepted it when informed that command would go to Joseph Hooker, whom he detested. McClellan wrote, “Poor Burnside feels dreadfully, almost crazy–I am sorry for him.” Over War Department objections, President Lincoln placed the Mississippi River naval fleet under control of the Navy Department. General Braxton Bragg reorganized his Confederate army by placing one corps under Leonidas Polk and another under William Hardee. General William Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland began moving from Kentucky to Nashville. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Saturday, November 8.  In Virginia, news spread throughout the Army of the Potomac about McClellan’s dismissal. Most soldiers were fiercely loyal to McClellan, so the news was met with sadness and outrage. In Tennessee, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal forces continued a reconnaissance from La Grange. General Nathaniel Banks replaced Benjamin Butler as commander of the Federal Department of the Gulf. Butler had placed New Orleans under dictatorial rule, sparking charges of cruelty and corruption. Banks was informed that “The President regards the opening of the Mississippi River as the first and most important of our military and naval operations.”

Sunday, November 9.  In Virginia, General Burnside assumed command of the Army of the Potomac at Warrenton. Ulric Dahlgren’s Federal cavalry raided Fredericksburg, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

Monday, November 10.  In Virginia, George McClellan delivered an emotional farewell address to the Army of the Potomac. Many soldiers wept at the departure of “Little Mac.” Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia and along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. President Lincoln requested the record on the 303 Indians condemned to death for leading the Sioux Indian uprising in August.

Tuesday, November 11.  In North Carolina, Confederates demonstrated at New Berne. In Virginia, a skirmish occurred at Jefferson.

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: Oct 29-Nov 4, 1862

Wednesday, October 29.  Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Texas, and Virginia. President Abraham Lincoln wrote to General George B. McClellan about the Army of the Potomac’s return to Virginia: “I am much pleased with the movement of the Army. When you get entirely across the (Potomac) river let me know. What do you know of the enemy?” Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote the Alabama governor about the difficulty in defending so many points at once: “Our only alternatives are to abandon important points or to use our limited resources as effectively as the circumstances will permit.”

Thursday, October 30.  General William S. Rosecrans assumed command of the Federal Department of the Cumberland, replacing General Don Carlos Buell. Emperor Napoleon III of France proposed that Russia and Great Britain mediate between the U.S. and the Confederacy to end the war. In South Carolina, prominent Federal General Ormsby M. Mitchel died of yellow fever at Beaufort.

Friday, October 31.  Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, and Federal forces began a two-day bombardment of Lavaca, Texas. Federal troops began concentrating at Grand Junction, Tennessee in preparation for General Ulysses S. Grant’s upcoming offensive against Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Saturday, November 1.  General Benjamin Butler, commanding Federal occupation forces in New Orleans, imposed stricter pass requirements and authorized the liberation of “slaves not known to be the slaves of loyal owners.” In North Carolina, a Federal expedition began from New Berne and featured several skirmishes over the next week.

Sunday, November 2.  Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, as General McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac began concentrating in the Blue Ridge. First Lady Mary Lincoln visited New York City.

Monday, November 3.  A Federal expedition began along the coasts of Georgia and eastern Florida. Among the Federals was one of the first black regiments, the First South Carolina Volunteers under Colonel Thomas W. Higginson, even though it would not be officially mustered into service until next year.

Tuesday, November 4.  In the midterm Federal elections, Democrats made substantial gains in the Senate and the House of Representatives. In New York, Democrat Horatio Seymour was elected governor. Democrats also won many seats in New Jersey, Illinois, and Wisconsin. These Democratic gains were largely attributed to war weariness and northern dissatisfaction with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamantion. Nevertheless, the Republicans retained their congressional majority with victories in New England, California, and Michigan. In Tennessee, Federal troops under General Ulysses S. Grant occupied La Grange and Grand Junction, which were important supply depots for his upcoming offensive against Vicksburg.

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: 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?”