This Week in the Civil War: Apr 8-14, 1863

Wednesday, April 8.  In the Federal campaign to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, Federal forces under General John McClernand skirmished with Confederates near New Carthage on the Mississippi River. In Virginia, President Abraham Lincoln reviewed portions of the Army of the Potomac with General Joseph Hooker at Falmouth. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Arkansas.

Thursday, April 9.  Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri.

Friday, April 10.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law limiting the cultivation of cotton and tobacco on private farms and plantations. Davis proclaimed, “Let fields be devoted exclusively to the production of corn, oats, beans, peas, potatoes, and other food for man and beast… let all your efforts be directed to the prompt supply of these articles in the districts where our armies are operating.”

Davis said, “Alone, unaided, we have met and overthrown the most formidable combination of naval and military armaments that the lust of conquest ever gathered together for the subjugation of a free people… We must not forget, however, that the war is not yet ended… and that the Government which controls these fleets and armies is driven to the most desperate efforts to effect the unholy purposes in which it has thus far been defeated.”

President Lincoln returned to Washington after reviewing more Army of the Potomac troops at Falmouth. In Tennessee, Confederates under General Earl Van Dorn attacked Federals at Franklin but withdrew after a fierce skirmish.

Saturday, April 11.  In Virginia, Confederates under General James Longstreet began a siege of Federals at Suffolk. In the Utah Territory, Federals began an offensive against the Indians from Camp Douglas to the Spanish Fork Canon. In South Carolina, Federal blockaders forced the blockade runner Stonewall Jackson ashore off Charleston. Skirmishing occurred at several points, including a Federal cavalry operation into Georgia. President Lincoln held a cabinet meeting and discussed his visit to General Hooker’s Army of the Potomac.

Sunday, April 12.  President Lincoln reviewed a letter from General Hooker, in which Hooker proposed to attack General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia by crossing the Rappahannock River, turning Lee’s left flank, and using cavalry to cut Confederate lines to Richmond. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee. In California, a Federal offensive against Indians began from Camp Babbitt.

Monday, April 13.  As a result of the unsuccessful Federal attack on Charleston Harbor on April 7, Flag Officer Samuel Du Pont determined that the harbor forts could not be taken by naval force alone. However, President Lincoln ordered Du Pont to hold his position in Charleston Harbor. Lincoln expressed frustration over the failure of the Federal ironclads to capture the forts.

General Ambrose Burnside, commanding the Federal Department of the Ohio, issued General Order No. 38. This stated that “the habit of declaring sympathy for the enemy will not be allowed in this department.” Anyone criticizing the war effort or committing “treason, expressed or implied,” would be arrested and face a military tribunal for disloyalty. Those found guilty of aiding the Confederacy would be executed, and southern sympathizers would be deported to the South. Burnside’s order sought to silence the growing anti-war sentiment in the region west of the Alleghenies and north of the Ohio River. The dissidents were known as “Copperheads” for wearing copper pennies in their lapels.

In Louisiana, Federals under General Nathaniel Banks attacked Fort Bisland on Bayou Teche, forcing the Confederates to withdraw. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 14.  In Louisiana, General Banks’s Federals occupied Fort Bisland, as Federal naval fire destroyed the captured Federal gunboat Queen of the West. In Virginia, General Hooker’s Federal cavalry conducted operations near Rappahannock Bridge, and at Kelly’s, Welford’s, and Beverly fords. President Lincoln reiterated the importance for Federal warships to remain in Charleston Harbor.

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: Feb 25-Mar 3, 1863

Wednesday, February 25.  An international crisis threatened to erupt when U.S.S. Vanderbilt seized the British merchant ship Peterhoff off St. Thomas in the West Indies. Peterhoff was bound for Mexico and suspected of being a Confederate blockade runner. Ironically, the seizure was ordered by the same admiral who had ordered the seizure of a British ship in 1861 that nearly sparked war between the U.S. and Britain.

British officials protested that the U.S. had no right to interfere with trade between Britain and Mexico, even if most of the shipments to Mexican ports were being funneled into the Confederacy. International courts later ruled that the U.S. could not halt the shipping of goods into neutral ports.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the National Currency Act into law, which established a national bank charter system and encouraged development of a uniform national currency. This answered Lincoln’s call for currency reforms, and it was supported by financiers as a means to not only pay for the war, but also to further centralize the economy. Critics argued that this law was an unconstitutional Federal takeover of banks. Supporters viewed this as a necessary wartime measure, even though the Republican Party had actually advocated nationalized banking before the war. The new banking system appealed to private bankers and speculators, who profited as much as industrialists during the war.

Confederate General D.H. Hill assumed command of troops in North Carolina. In Virginia, skirmishing occurred at various points.

Thursday, February 26.  The Cherokee Indian Council repealed its ordinance of secession, abolished slavery, and officially announced its support for the U.S.

Confederate General James Longstreet assumed command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. In Tennessee, Confederate raiders captured a Federal freight train loaded with supplies.

On the Mississippi River, Federals sent an empty coal barge past Vicksburg. The Confederate defenders mistook the barge for an ironclad and destroyed the ship Indianola to prevent its capture.

Friday, February 27.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis called for a national day of fasting and prayer for March 27. Confederate General Sterling Price was ordered to the Trans-Mississippi Department. Skirmishing and scouting occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Saturday, February 28.  In Georgia, the Federal warship U.S.S. Montauk destroyed C.S.S. Nashville on the Ogeechee River, south of Savannah. President Lincoln called for a special Senate session to begin on March 4 to consider numerous appointments and promotions. Skirmishing occurred at Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory.

Sunday, March 1.  President Lincoln conferred with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and military officers regarding appointments and promotions. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Monday, March 2.  The U.S. Senate approved the appointment of four major and nine brigadier generals for the Regular Army, and 40 major and 200 brigadier generals for the volunteers. The Senate dismissed 33 army officers from the service who had been convicted by courts-martial.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri, and a Federal expedition left New Orleans bound for the Rio Grande River.

Tuesday, March 3.  On the last day of the U.S. congressional session, President Lincoln signed several bills into law. These included authorizing the Treasury to seized captured goods in Confederate states, approving loans for the next two years to finance the war, creating the Idaho Territory, allowing the president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and empowering individuals to sue contractors for defrauding the government by selling shoddy war equipment.

Lincoln also signed the controversial Enrollment Act, which required all able-bodied men to register for a military draft. Critics denounced the provisions allowing men to buy their way out of the draft by either paying $300 or hiring a substitute. Only six percent of Federal military personnel were recruited by draft over the course of the war, and two-thirds of these draftees hired substitutes.

In Georgia, an eight-hour Federal bombardment of Fort McAllister below Savannah failed to capture the garrison. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, 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)

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 19-25, 1862

Wednesday, November 19.  In Virginia, General James Longstreet’s Confederate corps within General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia established positions in the heights above Fredericksburg after moving from the main Confederate camp at Culpeper. General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Federal Army of the Potomac, established headquarters across the river from Fredericksburg at Falmouth. A Federal expedition took place from Grand Junction, Tennessee to Ripley, Mississippi as part of General Ulysses S. Grant’s probe of Confederate defenses around Vicksburg, Mississippi. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri.

Thursday, November 20.  In Virginia, Robert E. Lee arrived at Fredericksburg as troops on both sides continued gathering in the area. The Confederate Army of Tennessee was officially established, commanded by General Braxton Bragg and consisting of three corps commanded by Generals E. Kirby Smith, Leonidas Polk, and William Hardee. In Arkansas, a Federal expedition began toward Van Buren and Fort Smith.

Friday, November 21.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed James A. Seddon as secretary of war. Seddon was a prominent Richmond attorney and a former U.S. and Confederate congressman. Braxton Bragg dispatched General Nathan Bedford Forrest to disrupt Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal activities in western Tennessee. In Virginia, Ambrose Burnside called on the mayor of Fredericksburg to surrender or face bombardment. The mayor was allowed 16 hours to remove the women, children, elderly, and infirmed, then requested more time while the Confederate corps under General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson hurried to the town from Winchester. President Abraham Lincoln told a delegation of Kentucky Unionists that he “would rather die than take back a word of the Proclamation of Freedom,” then again urged the adoption of his plan of gradual, compensated emancipation.

Saturday, November 22.  Federal Secretary of War Edwin Stanton released nearly all political prisoners held by the military. In Virginia, 12 Confederate salt works and several vessels were destroyed in Matthews County on Chesapeake Bay. Federal General Edwin Sumner agreed not to bombard Fredericksburg “so long as no hostile demonstration is made from the town.”

Sunday, November 23.  In North Carolina, the Federal steamer Ellis commanded by Lieutenant William Cushing captured two schooners on the New River at Jacksonville. However, Ellis hit a shoal upon returning and Cushing narrowly escaped capture in one of the captured schooners.

Monday, November 24.  Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston was given command of the region of western North Carolina, Tennessee, northern Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and eastern Louisiana. Johnson’s main objectives were to oversee operations by Braxton Bragg in Tennessee and John C. Pemberton in Mississippi. In Tennessee, Bragg began moving his Confederate Army of Tennessee to Murfreesboro, southeast of Nashville. In Maryland, a Federal expedition began from Sharpsburg to Sheperdstown in western Virginia. A Federal expedition began from Summerville to Cold Knob Mountain in western Virginia. President Lincoln wrote to Carl Schurz, “I certainly know that if the war fails, the administration fails, and that I will be blamed for it, whether I deserve it or not.”

Tuesday, November 25.  Confederate General Samuel Jones was given command of the Trans-Allegheny, or Western Department of Virginia. Confederate cavalry crossed the Potomac River and briefly seized the government offices in Poolesville, Maryland. In Arkansas, a Federal expedition began to Yellville.

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