This Week in the Civil War: May 13-19, 1863

Wednesday, May 13.  In Mississippi, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals advanced on the state capital of Jackson, which was defended by Confederates under General Joseph E. Johnston. Grant’s forces now stood between Johnston at Jackson and Confederate General John C. Pemberton, commanding Confederates at Vicksburg.   North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis expressing concern about desertion in the Confederate army; Vance attributed the high desertion rate to homesickness, fatigue, lack of furloughs, and inability to enter regiments of their choice. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Thursday, May 14.  In Louisiana, the Confederate garrison at Port Hudson on the west bank of the Mississippi River was depleted as men were transfered to aid Vicksburg. General Nathaniel Banks’s 24,000-man Federal Army of the Gulf advanced to capture the fort from the south.

In Mississippi, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals captured the state capital of Jackson. Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston withdrew his outnumbered forces, along with vital supplies, to the north.

President Abraham Lincoln wrote to General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, that “some of your corps and Division commanders are giving you their entire confidence.” Hooker’s subordinates had lobbied the administration to remove him from command, but Lincoln feared the political implications of a quick removal. In private, Lincoln agreed with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck that Hooker should be removed before another major battle occurred, but Lincoln secretly hoped that Hooker would resign.

Friday, May 15.  In Mississippi, Grant’s Federals converged on Edwards’ Station, east of the vital Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg. Federals under General William T. Sherman remained in Jackson to destroy supplies. General John C. Pemberton, commanding Confederates around Vicksburg, decided it was impossible to link with Joseph Johnston.

Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas, Missouri, and Virginia.

Saturday, May 16.  In Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals turned west from Jackson to attack Vicksburg from the rear. The Federals confronted John C. Pemberton’s Confederates at Champion’s Hill, about halfway between Jackson and Vicksburg, and the outnumbered Confederates withdrew west after launching a furious counterattack that was repulsed just before reaching Grant’s headquarters.

Democrats and even some Republicans protested the conviction of Clement Vallandigham. Many were shocked that a citizen could be thrown into a military prison for simply exercising his constitutional right of free speech. New York Governor Horatio Seymour said, “(This arrest) is cowardly, brutal, infamous. It is not merely a step toward Revolution, it is revolution… our liberties are overthrown.”

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

Sunday, May 17.  In Mississippi, John C. Pemberton attempted to make one more stand against Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals by establishing defenses at Big Black River. However, the Confederates were overwhelmed once more, and they withdrew to previously prepared defenses on the outskirts of Vicksburg.

In Louisiana, Nathaniel Banks’s Federals converged on Port Hudson. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Virginia, and Tennessee.

Monday, May 18.  In Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals crossed the Big Black River and converged on Vicksburg. Joseph E. Johnston advised John C. Pemberton to abandon the city, but Pemberton decided to stay. President Jefferson Davis called for civilians and militia to join Johnston to help liberate Pemberton’s men trapped in Vicksburg.

In Great Britain, debates in the House of Lords led to demands that Britain defend its shipowners from U.S. prize ships. Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and western Virginia.

Tuesday, May 19.  In Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant ordered a general assault outside Vicksburg, but the Confederate defenders were stronger than he had anticipated and the attack was repulsed.

In response to protests against the arrest of Clement Vallandigham, President Lincoln directed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to commute his two-year prison sentence and banish the former congressman to the Confederacy. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee 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)

This Week in the Civil War: Mar 25-31, 1863

Wednesday, March 25.  In Mississippi, Federal efforts to capture the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg were becoming increasingly futile; skirmishing occurred on Black Bayou as the Federal expedition on Steele’s Bayou was stalled. In addition, a Federal ram was sunk and another disabled when attempting to run the Vicksburg batteries guarding the Mississippi River.

In Tennessee, Confederates under General Nathan Bedford Forrest raided Brentwood and Franklin. General Ambrose Burnside, former commander of the Federal Army of the Potomac, was given command of the Department of the Ohio. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Kentucky.

Thursday, March 26.  The voters of West Virginia approved the gradual emancipation of slaves. The Confederate Congress passed a law authorizing the confiscation of food and property, including slaves, when needed for the army.

President Abraham Lincoln wrote to pro-Union Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson regarding the recruitment of blacks into the military: “The colored population is the great available and yet unavailed of, force for restoring the Union. The bare sight of 50,000 armed, and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi, would end the rebellion at once.”

Friday, March 27.  Addressing members of various Indian tribes, President Lincoln said, “I can see no way in which your race is to become as numerous and prosperous as the white race except by living as they do, but the cultivation of the earth.” Skirmishing occurred in Florida and Tennessee.

Saturday, March 28.  In Louisiana, the Federal gunboat U.S.S. Diana was captured near Pattersonville. Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, and a Federal expedition from La Grange to Moscow and Macon in Tennessee began.

Sunday, March 29.  In Mississippi, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered General John McClernand’s Federals on the Louisiana, or west, side of the Mississippi River to advance from Milliken’s Bend to New Carthage, south of Vicksburg. The Federal corps under Generals William T. Sherman and James McPherson were to follow. From this, Grant began formulating a daring plan to move his entire army across the river, bypass Vicksburg on the west bank, then re-cross below the city, abandon the supply line, and attack Vicksburg from the east.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Florida, and Tennessee.

Monday, March 30.  President Lincoln proclaimed April 30 as a day of national fasting and prayer. In North Carolina, Confederates besieged Washington. Heavy skirmishing occurred in Virginia, western Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory.

Tuesday, March 31.  In Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant’s movement from Milliken’s Bend to New Carthage continued. In support, Admiral David G. Farragut’s Federal ships ran the Grand Gulf batteries below Vicksburg.

In Florida, Federals evacuated Jacksonville. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas. President Lincoln allowed commercial relations with parts of southern states under Federal occupation according to regulations set by Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase.

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