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 22-28, 1863

Wednesday, April 22.  On the Mississippi River, a Federal naval flotilla of six transports and 13 barges passed the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg and landed downriver. One transport and seven barges were sunk, but the rest carried the necessary supplies for General Ulysses S. Grant to execute his plan to capture Vicksburg. Confederate President Jefferson Davis advised General John C. Pemberton, commanding the Confederates at Vicksburg, to block Federal ships on the river with flaming rafts.

Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Missouri.

Thursday, April 23.  Newspapers reported that a seance was conducted by a medium at the White House. It was alleged that after President Abraham Lincoln left the session, “spirits” pinched the nose of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and pulled the beard of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.

In North Carolina, four Confederate ships ran the Federal blockade at Wilmington and delivered valuable supplies. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri.

Friday, April 24.  The Confederate Congress passed a law imposing a “tax in kind” on 10 percent of all produce for the current year. The tax disproportionately harmed small farmers who could not afford to surrender 10 percent of their harvest, unlike plantation farmers.

In Alabama, General Grenville Dodge’s Federals captured Tuscumbia. In Mississippi, Federal Colonel Benjamin Grierson continued his cavalry raid to divert attention from Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg; Grierson’s men skirmished at Garlandville and Birmingham. In the Gulf of Mexico, U.S.S. De Soto captured four Confederate blockade runners.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Saturday, April 25.  Confederate General Dabney H. Maury assumed command of the largely pro-Union Department of East Tennessee. In Great Britain, debate took place in Parliament over what should be done about British vessels seized by U.S. blockade ships. Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, the Indian Territory, and the Arizona Territory.

Sunday, April 26.  In Missouri, General John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates were repulsed while attacking Cape Girardeau. In Mississippi, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals threatened the state capital at Jackson. In Alabama, a Federal raid began from Tuscumbia, headed for Rome, Georgia.

Skirmishing occurred in Maryland, Virginia, western Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Monday, April 27.  In Virginia, General Joseph Hooker’s Federal Army of the Potomac began moving out of winter quarters at Falmouth up the Rappahannock River toward the fords over the river. This began another effort to destroy General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Spring weather had dried the roads, and Washington was pressuring Hooker to act.

The Confederate Congress passed a law authorizing the issuance of eight percent bonds or stock to redeem bonds sold prior to December 1, 1862. Dabney H. Maury was replaced as commander of the Confederate Department of East Tennessee by General Simon Bolivar Buckner. Maury was reassigned to command the District of the Gulf.

In Missouri, Marmaduke’s Confederates continued skirmishing near Jackson and White Water Bridge. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, western Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Tuesday, April 28.  In Virginia, the Army of the Potomac began crossing the Rappahannock, moving through the Wilderness area west of Robert E. Lee’s Confederates at Fredericksburg. Hooker left a Federal corps to oppose Fredericksburg while the rest of his army moved to outflank Lee’s left. The Episcopal church in Fredericksburg rang the alarm.

President Lincoln commuted the death sentence of Sergeant John A. Chase, who had been convicted of striking and threatening an officer. Lincoln instead ordered Chase imprisoned at hard labor “with ball and chain attached to his leg” for the remainder of the war.

In Mississippi, Grierson’s Federals skirmished at Union Church. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky and Alabama.

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: Feb 4-10, 1863

Wednesday, February 4.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to General Robert E. Lee expressing concern about the Federal threats to the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Thursday, February 5.  Queen Victoria of England In Great Britain, Queen Victoria informed the British Parliament that Britain had refrained from trying to “induce a cessation of the conflict between the contending parties in the North American States, because it has not yet seemed to Her Majesty that any such overture could be attended with a probability of success.”

In Virginia, General Joseph Hooker began reforming the Federal Army of the Potomac after assuming command. Hooker removed former commander Ambrose Burnside’s system of “grand divisions” and reinstated the army corps system. Hooker also worked to restore troop morale by providing better food, equipment, and camp sanitation.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Arkansas.

Friday, February 6.  U.S. Secretary of State William Seward informed the French government that the offer by Emperor Napoleon III to mediate an end to the war had been declined.

In Virginia, a corps from the Federal Army of the Potomac was transfered to Newport News to threaten the Confederate capital of Richmond from the east.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Saturday, February 7.  General Samuel P. Heintzelman assumed command of the recreated Federal Department of Washington.

In South Carolina, three Confederate blockade runners broke through the Federal blockade on Charleston.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Sunday, February 8.  Circulation of the Chicago Times was temporarily suspended by a military order for publishing “disloyal statements.” General Ulysses S. Grant later rescinded the order.

Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and Missouri.

Monday, February 9.  The Confederate Southwestern Army was extended to include the entire Trans-Mississippi Department.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Tuesday, February 10.  On the Mississippi River, the Federal ship Queen of the West headed toward the Red River.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, western Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, 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)

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)

This Week in the Civil War: Dec 3-9, 1862

Wednesday, December 3.  Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and western Virginia. Three Confederate blockade runners were captured off the coast of North Carolina. In Mississippi, Federal forces under General Ulysses S. Grant continued pressing Confederates along the Yocknapatalfa River.

Thursday, December 4.  General Joseph E. Johnston assumed command of all Confederate forces in the West. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory. In Minnesota, settlers attacked Indian prisoners in a continuation of the Dakota Sioux War that had erupted in August. In Kentucky, Confederates captured supplies at Prestonburg.

Friday, December 5. In Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal cavalry was defeated in a skirmish at Coffeeville.

Saturday, December 6.  President Abraham Lincoln ordered the execution of 39 Indians among the 393 convicted in participating in the Dakota Sioux War. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Missouri.

Sunday, December 7.  The Battle of Prairie Grove occurred about 12 miles southwest of Fayetteville, Arkansas on Illinois Creek. Confederate General Thomas C. Hindman had hoped to destroy two Federal armies before they could unite. However, the Federals had joined forces by the time the Confederates attacked. After intense and confusing combat, the Confederates held their ground, but the bitterly cold weather forced them to withdraw during the night.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis, concerned about Vicksburg, wired General John C. Pemberton at Grenada, Mississippi, “Are you in communication with Genl. J.E. Johnston? Hope you will be re-inforced in time.” The Confederate Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana was organized with Generals Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price commanding the First and Second Corps. Confederate John Hunt Morgan and about 1,400 men surprised and captured a Federal garrison at Hartsville, Tennessee.

Monday, December 8.  President Davis informed General Robert E. Lee that he was going west to address the dwindling Confederate prospects in Tennessee and Mississippi. Davis also expressed regret that he could offer no more manpower to Lee’s outnumbered Army of Northern Virginia.

Tuesday, December 9.  Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri. Federal expeditions began from Ozark, Missouri and from Corinth, Mississippi toward Tuscumbia, Alabama.

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