This Week in the Civil War: May 20-26, 1863

Wednesday, May 20.  Off North Carolina, two Confederate blockade-runners were captured near the Neuse Rive and Nassau. In Louisiana, General Nathaniel Banks’s Federal army began preparing to attack Port Hudson on the Mississippi River. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and the Indian Territory.

Thursday, May 21.  In Mississippi, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered a Federal attack on General John C. Pemberton’s Confederate lines outside Vicksburg. Confederates destroyed their stores and navy yard at Yazoo City before they could be captured by an approaching Federal flotilla.

In Louisiana, a portion of Nathaniel Banks’s Federals advanced on Port Hudson from Baton Rouge, while Banks’s main army approached from Alexandria. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Louisiana, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Friday, May 22.  In Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals launched a second assault on Vicksburg, but they were again repulsed with heavy losses. Grant lost nearly 3,200 killed, wounded, or missing, while the Confederates lost less than 500. Grant then decided to lay siege to the city in the hopes of starving it into submission.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wired General Braxton Bragg, commanding the Army of Tennessee at Tullahoma: “The vital issue of holding the Missi. at Vicksburg is dependent on the success of Genl. Johnston in an attack on the investing force. The intelligence from there is discouraging. Can you aid him?…”

In Washington, the War Department issued General Order No. 143, establishing the U.S. Bureau of Colored Troops to manage the enlistment and recruitment of blacks into the U.S. military. Since the war began, blacks had attempted to enlist but had been refused due to a 1792 Federal law prohibiting blacks from bearing arms for the U.S. army.

In Louisiana, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals continued approaching Port Hudson. In Virginia, General Alfred Pleasonton replaced General George Stoneman as commander of the cavalry corps in the Federal Army of the Potomac. The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society held a meeting in London and voiced strong support for the Union.

In Washington, President Abraham Lincoln greeted a group at the White House known as the “One-Legged Brigade.” He told the convalescing veterans that there was no need for a speech “as the men upon their crutches were orators; their very appearance spoke louder than tongues.” Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana and the Indian Territory.

Saturday, May 23.  In Louisiana, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals advanced on Port Hudson from Bayou Sara in a heavy storm. In Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals began preparing to lay siege to Vicksburg.

In Washington, President Lincoln conferred with army and navy officials about the unsuccessful Federal attacks on Charleston, South Carolina. In Ohio, petitions circulating protesting the “arbitrary arrest, illegal trial, and inhuman imprisonment of Hon. C.L. Vallandigham” for allegedly making pro-Confederate statements.

Jefferson Davis wired General Joseph E. Johnston, who was unable to stop Grant at Vicksburg, that he was “hopeful of junction of your forces and defeat of the enemy.” Davis also wired John C. Pemberton at Vicksburg, “Sympathizing with you for the reverse sustained.” Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas.

Sunday, May 24.  In Louisiana, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals began converging on Port Hudson. General John A. Schofield replaced General Samuel R. Curtis as commander of the Federal Department of Missouri.

Jefferson Davis wired Joseph E. Johnston that he knew John C. Pemberton would hold Vicksburg, “but the disparity of numbers renders prolonged defence dangerous. I hope you will soon be able to break the investment, make a junction and carry in munitions.”

President Lincoln spent the day visiting hospitals in and around Washington. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Monday, May 25.  In Louisiana, Confederates defending Port Hudson on the Mississippi were unable to abandon the fort before Nathaniel Banks’s Federals began surrounding it. The fort commander, General Franklin Gardner, had been ordered by Western Theater commander Joseph E. Johnston to abandon Port Hudson, but Gardner did not receive the order until Banks had already trapped the Confederates in the fort.

Federal authorities in Tennessee turned over former Ohio Congressmen Clement L. Vallandigham to the Confederates. His prison sentence had been changed by President Lincoln to banishment to the Confederacy after his conviction of expressing alleged pro-Confederate sentiments. The Confederates quickly exiled Vallandigham to Canada.

Federals captured the Confederate steamers Starlight and Red Chief on the Mississippi. C.S.S. Alabama seized two prizes in raids off Bahia, Brazil. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Tuesday, May 26.  In Louisiana, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals completed setting up siege operations at Port Hudson. Jefferson Davis wrote to General Robert E. Lee that “Pemberton is stoutly defending the entrenchments at Vicksburg, and Johnston has an army outside, which I suppose will be able to raise the siege, and combined with Pemberton’s forces may win a victory.”

Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, 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: Apr 15-21, 1863

Wednesday, April 15.  On the Mississippi River, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals continued moving from Milliken’s Bend to below the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, skirmishing with Confederates along the way. In North Carolina, Confederates abandoned a siege of Washington when Federal reinforcements approached.

Off Brazil, the Confederate commerce raider C.S.S. Alabama captured two U.S. whalers. President Abraham Lincoln wrote to General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, that he was concerned about the Federal cavalry’s slowness along the Rappahannock River in northern Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

Thursday, April 16.  On the Mississippi River, a Federal naval flotilla of 12 ships under Admiral David D. Porter passed the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg and landed downriver near New Carthage. All but one of the vessels made it through, despite taking several hits from the Confederate cannon. This was part of Ulysses S. Grant’s bold plan to capture Vicksburg by crossing his 44,000 troops to the west bank of the Mississippi, marching them southward past the town, then recrossing the river to take Vicksburg from behind.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law authorizing army commissions for minors. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

Friday, April 17.  Ulysses S. Grant dispatched Federal cavalry under Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson to raid northern Mississippi and southern Tennessee. This sought to divert Confederates from Grant’s plan to capture Vicksburg. Grierson and 1,700 cavalrymen left La Grange, Tennessee and moved into northern Mississippi.

Confederates under General John S. Marmaduke invaded Missouri from Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, and Missouri.

Saturday, April 18.  President Davis approved a law creating a volunteer navy in which individuals could purchase and fit out private vessels that would operate against Federal ships for prize money. The volunteer navy measure was not implemented.

In Mississippi, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals skirmished at New Albany. In Louisiana, Federals destroyed a Confederate salt works near New Iberia. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas.

Sunday, April 19.  President Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck traveled to Aquia Creek in northern Virginia on a one-day trip to discuss military issues. In Mississippi, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals skirmished at Pontotoc. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, and Missouri.

Monday, April 20.  President Lincoln issued a proclamation stating that West Virginia, having been granted statehood by Congress the previous December, would officially join the Union on June 20, the two-year anniversary of when western Virginia voters chose to secede from the rest of the state.

In Louisiana, Federals captured Opelousas, Washington, and Butte-a-la-Rose. In Missouri, John Marmaduke’s Confederates skirmished at Patterson. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, western Virginia, and Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 21.  In western Virginia, General William E. Jones’s Confederates raided the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

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

The Civil War This Week: Jan 7-13, 1863

Wednesday, January 7.  Federal General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck wrote to General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac, emphasizing “our first object was, not Richmond, but the defeat or scattering of Lee’s army.” Halleck strongly backed Burnside’s plan to attack across the Rappahannock.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, asking Lee to call on the Federal commanders to “prevent the savage atrocities which are threatened.” If the Federals did not comply, Lee should inform them that “measures will be taken by retaliation to repress the indulgence of such brutal passion.”

In Missouri, General John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates captured Ozark and advanced on Springfield. A group of 450 women and children left Washington, DC for Richmond and the Confederacy with permission from the Federal government. The Richmond Enquirer called the Emancipation Proclamation “the most startling political crime, the most stupid political blunder, yet known in American history… Southern people have now only to choose between victory and death.”

Thursday, January 8.  President Abraham Lincoln wrote to troubled Ambrose Burnside, “I do not yet see how I could profit by changing the command of the A.P. (Army of the Potomac) & if I did, I should not wish to do it by accepting the resignation of your commission.”

Defending the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln wrote to General John A. McClernand that “it must stand… As to the States not included in it, of course they can have their rights in the Union as of old.” President Davis wrote to General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Western Theater, “To hold the Mississippi is vital.”

In Missouri, John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates were repulsed by the Federal garrison at Springfield. In Washington, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Lincoln’s appointment of John P. Usher of Indiana as Interior secretary. Usher replaced Caleb Smith, who resigned due to poor health. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Virginia, and Arkansas.

Friday, January 9.  In Tennessee, General William S. Rosecrans reorganized the Federal Army of the Cumberland into three corps commanded by George H. Thomas, Alexander McD. McCook, and Thomas L. Crittenden.

In Missouri, the Federal garrison at Hartville surrendered to John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates. Boat crews from U.S.S. Ethan Allen destroyed salt works near St. Joseph’s, Florida.

Saturday, January 10.  John A. McClernand’s Federals closed in on Arkansas Post, or Fort Hindman, about 50 miles up the Arkansas River from its junction with the Mississippi. McClernand drove in on the outer earthworks, and naval bombardment stopped Confederate artillery. Land units were poised to attack the besieged Confederates under General Thomas J. Churchill.

President Lincoln wrote to General Samuel Curtis in St. Louis about his concern with the slave problem in Missouri. A Federal military court-martial dismissed General Fitz John Porter from the U.S. Army for failing to obey orders during the Battle of Second Bull Run the previous August. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas, and Federal warships bombarded Galveston, Texas.

Sunday, January 11.  After a two-day naval bombardment, John A. McClernand launched a Federal ground attack on Fort Hindman on the Arkansas River. The overwhelmed Confederate defenders quickly surrendered. The Federals captured nearly 5,000 prisoners, 17 cannon, 46,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, and seven battle flags. While this was a Federal success, the fort itself held little strategic significance. Moreover, it diverted troops from the primary campaign against Vicksburg.

The prominent Confederate blockade runner, C.S.S. Alabama, sank U.S.S. Hatteras off Galveston, Texas. Hatteras had been on blockade duty when she was attacked by the stronger Alabama. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Missouri. In Missouri, John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates withdrew from Hartville. On the Mississippi River north of Memphis, Confederates surprised, captured, and burned U.S.S. Grampus No. 2.

Monday, January 12.  The third session of the 1st Confederate Congress assembled in Richmond and received a message from President Davis. The message criticized the Emancipation Proclamation because it could lead to the wholesale murder of blacks and slaveholders, thus revealing the “true nature of the designs” of the Republican Party. Davis requested legislation amending the draft laws and providing relief for citizens in war-torn regions of the South.

Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas. General John E. Wool assumed command of the Federal Department of the East.

Tuesday, January 13.  The U.S. War Department officially authorized the recruitment of blacks for the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, to be commanded by Colonel Thomas W. Higginson.

In Arkansas, a Federal expedition began from Helena. In Tennessee, a Federal reconnaissance began from Nashville to the Harpeth and Cumberland Rivers, and another Federal reconnaissance began from Murfreesboro. U.S.S. Columbia ran aground off North Carolina; the vessel was captured and burned by Confederates.

At the Harpeth Shoals on the Cumberland River in Tennessee, U.S. gunboat Slidell surrendered to General Joseph Wheeler’s Confederates. Three transports with wounded troops were also seized; Wheeler put the wounded all on one transport and allowed it to proceed, then burned the other two.

This Week in the Civil War: Oct 8-14, 1862

Wednesday, October 8.  In Kentucky, the Battle of Perryville occurred as parts of General Don Carlos Buell’s Federals fought a portion of General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate army. Buell was unaware that a battle was taking place until afternoon due to an atmospheric phenomenon that prevented him from hearing the fighting. Part of Bragg’s force was still in Frankfort. The Federals fought off hard Confederate attacks until Bragg withdrew to the southeast. This was the largest battle fought in Kentucky, and it stopped the Confederate invasion of the state, just as Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Maryland had also been stopped.

Thursday, October 9.  General Jeb Stuart led Confederate cavalry in a reconnaissance and raid into Maryland en route to Pennsylvania. Federal cavalry unsuccessfully tried stopping this ride around General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. The Confederate Congress established military courts with defined powers.

Friday, October 10.  Braxton Bragg’s Confederates began their withdrawal from Kentucky. Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry crossed the Potomac River into Maryland on the reconnaissance and raid of the Federal Army of the Potomac. Stuart reached Chambersburg, Pennsylvania by evening. In the Dakota Territory, Dakota Sioux Indians battled miners on the upper Missouri River below Fort Berthold. In Indiana, home guards drove off a band of Confederate guerrillas at Hawesville. President Jefferson Davis asked Virginia to provide 4,500 slaves to complete fortifications around Richmond. Confederate General John B. Magruder was assigned to command the Department of Texas.

Saturday, October 11.  In Pennsylvania, Jeb Stuart’s Confederates drove residents and officials out of Chambersburg and cut telegraph wires, destroyed railroad depots and equipment, seized horses, and burned any supplies they could not take. Stuart then moved southeast toward Emmitsburg, Maryland. The Confederate commerce raider Alabama destroyed the grain ship Manchester. Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law adding more exemptions to the Confederate draft. The most controversial provision exempted an owner or overseer of over 20 slaves. Richmond newspapers began discussing a possible end of the war due to recent Confederate victories.

Sunday, October 12.  Jeb Stuart’s Confederates crossed the Potomac back to Virginia after skirmishing at the mouth of the Monocacy River. General Earl Van Dorn assumed command of all Confederate troops in Mississippi. President Abraham Lincoln asked General Don Carlos Buell for updates in Kentucky; Lincoln was concerned that Buell was not pursuing the withdrawing Confederates fast enough.

Monday, October 13.  The second session of the First Confederate Congress adjourned after approving a bill suspending habeas corpus (with some exceptions) until February 12, 1863. President Lincoln wrote a letter to George McClellan urging him to renew the offensive against Robert E. Lee in Virginia: “Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing?” Federal General Jacob D. Cox assumed command of the District of Western Virginia. In Kentucky, Braxton Bragg’s Confederates began moving through Cumberland Gap back to Tennessee.

Tuesday, October 14.  In elections for congressional seats in Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Democrats gained seats in every state except Iowa. Many cited the Lincoln administration’s war policies and the Emancipation Proclamation as reasons why voters turned against Lincoln’s Republicans. Confederate General John C. Pemberton assumed command of the Department of Mississippi and Eastern Louisiana.

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)