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)

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This Week in the Civil War: Mar 18-24, 1863

Wednesday, March 18.  Confederate commissioner John Slidell and representatives of Emile Erlanger, head of France’s most influential bank, negotiated a loan to the Confederacy for $15 million to help finance the war. The loan was secured by the Confederate sale of 20-year war bonds that could be exchanged for cotton, the South’s most lucrative commodity. The cotton was to be sold to bondholders at 12 cents per pound when the market rate was 21 cents per pound. Some Confederate officials noted the enormous profit margin and accused Erlanger of extortion, but they were desperate for money so the loan was approved.

President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Congressman Henry Winter Davis of Maryland: “Let the friends of the government first save the government, then administer it to their own liking.” General Theophilus H. Holmes assumed command of the Confederate District of Arkansas.

Thursday, March 19.  In the South, the first bond sales on the new Erlanger loan took place. Initial sales were successful, but Federal agents in Europe spread rumors that Confederate securities were a poor risk and bid up the cost of war supplies so high that the Confederates could not afford to buy them. Many investors were ruined, Erlanger cleared $6 million in commissions, and the Confederacy was left with $9 million to pay for war.

On the Mississippi River, the Federal ships Hartford and Albatross under command of Flag Officer David G. Farragut passed the batteries at Grand Gulf, just south of Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

Friday, March 20.  Federal General Stephen A. Hurlbut informed President Lincoln of all the unsuccessful attempts to attack Vicksburg thus far. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Florida.

Saturday, March 21.  On the Mississippi River, Farragut’s Federal ships anchored below Vicksburg. Confederate sharpshooters harassed General William T. Sherman’s Federals at Steele’s Bayou. In Tennessee, Confederate guerrillas attacked a train traveling from Bolivar to Grand Junction.

In Louisiana, one Federal expedition left New Orleans for Ponchatoula, and another left Bonnet Carre for the Amite River. Federal General Edwin Sumner died; he had fought admirably on the Virginia Peninsula and at Antietam last year.

Sunday, March 22.  In Kentucky, Confederate under John Pegram began operations, while part of John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate force attempted to capture a Federal garrison at Mount Sterling. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Monday, March 23.  The Confederate Congress authorized funding Treasury notes issued previous to December 1, 1862 and further issuance of Treasury notes for not less than $5 or more than $50 each.

President Lincoln wrote to New York Governor Horatio Seymour, a Democratic opponent of his administration, that “there can not be a difference of purpose between you and me. If we should differ as to the means, it is important that such difference should be as small as possible–that it should not be enhanced by unjust suspicions on one side or the other.”

In Florida, Federal forces operated near Jacksonville. On the Mississippi River, Farragut’s Federal ships attacked Confederate batteries at Warrenton, below Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Tuesday, March 24.  In Mississippi, William T. Sherman’s Federals were stopped in their struggles north of Vicksburg in a skirmish at Black’s Bayou. This convinced Sherman to abandon the futile effort to reach Vicksburg through the maze of marshes and swamps north of the stronghold. Sherman’s withdrawal ended a series of unsuccessful efforts to attack Vicksburg from the north, and General Ulysses S. Grant began formulating a new plan of attack.

Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida. In Arkansas, Federal scouts began operating near Fayetteville.

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

This Week in the Civil War: Mar 11-17, 1863

Wednesday, March 11.  In Mississippi, Confederates blocked Federal gunboats from advancing on Vicksburg. The Confederates had quickly built Fort Pemberton out of earth and cotton bales, and they stopped the Federal effort to attack Vicksburg via the Yazoo River to the north.

Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky. In Baltimore, a Federal commander prohibited the sale of pictures of Confederate military and political leaders.

Thursday, March 12.  In Tennessee, a Federal expedition on the Duck River returned to Franklin. A Federal expedition in western Virginia began.

Friday, March 13.  In Mississippi, the Confederates at Fort Pemberton held firm against Federal gunboat attacks. In Richmond, an explosion caused by the accidental ignition of a friction primer killed or wounded 69 people at the Confederate Ordnance Laboratory; casualties included 62 women. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Saturday, March 14.  On the Mississippi River, a Federal naval squadron led by Flag Officer David G. Farragut attempted to pass the Confederate batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana. Federal troops under General Nathaniel Banks attempted to create a diversion to allow the ships to pass, but the vessels were pummeled by Confederate artillery. Only three of the seven ships managed to run the gauntlet and land between Port Hudson and Vicksburg. This proved that capturing Port Hudson would be more difficult for the Federals than anticipated.

Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Sunday, March 15.  In San Francisco, Federal authorities seized the ship J.M. Chapman as it was about to leave port allegedly carrying 20 secessionists and six cannons. In North Carolina, the British ship Britannia successfully ran the Federal blockade at Wilmington, even though the blockade was growing stronger. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Monday, March 16.  In Mississippi, General William T. Sherman and 11 Federal gunboats tried advancing through the twisting waterways from the Yazoo River to Steele’s Bayou, north of Vicksburg. However, Confederate obstructions in the water made progress virtually impossible.

In Tennessee, a Federal expedition from Jackson to Trenton began.

Tuesday, March 17.  In Virginia, the Battle of Kelly’s Ford occurred when Federal cavalry under General William Averell crossed the Rappahannock River to push Confederates away from Culpeper. In the first large-scale battle for the new Federal cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac, the Federals were repulsed after hard combat. However, they showed unprecedented fighting spirit. Moreover, the Confederate victory was tempered by the loss of rising star Major John Pelham, who was killed in action.

President Abraham Lincoln responded to a letter from General William Rosecrans complaining that the government was not supporting his efforts in Tenneseee, ”… you wrong both yourself and us, when you even suspect there is not the best disposition on the part of us all here to oblige you.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia.

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