This Week in the Civil War: June 24-30, 1863

Wednesday, June 24.  In Tennessee, Federal General William S. Rosecrans wired Washington: “The army begins to move at 3 o’clock this morning.” After repeated urgings, Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland began moving out of Murfreesboro to confront General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee at Tullahoma. The Lincoln administration believed that pressing Rosecrans to attack would prevent Bragg from sending reinforcements to break the siege of Vicksburg.

In Mississippi, the situation inside Vicksburg was becoming critical. Federal shelling continued, and the residents suffered from lack of food and other supplies.

Federal General Joseph Hooker wired Washington asking for orders, stating that “I don’t know whether I am standing on my head or feet.” Hooker’s Army of the Potomac was struggling to pursue General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia as it advanced northward into Pennsylvania.

Skirmishing occurred in Maryland, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Thursday, June 25.  Robert E. Lee dispatched his cavalry under General Jeb Stuart to block the movements of the Confederate forces from observation by the pursuing Federals. Stuart instead began a northern raid that handicapped Lee’s army in enemy territory.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to Braxton Bragg and General P.G.T. Beauregard at Charleston, South Carolina pleading for them to send reinforcements to Vicksburg. Davis stated that unless General Joseph E. Johnston was reinforced, “the Missi. (Mississippi River) will be lost.” Johnston’s Confederates tried harassing the Federals laying siege to Vicksburg, but were ineffective.

Friday, June 26.  Joseph Hooker’s Federal forces finally completed crossing the Potomac River in pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s Confederates. It took Hooker eight days to cross the Potomac. The slow pace concerned Lincoln administration officials that Hooker may not be able to stop the Confederates’ northern invasion. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin called for 60,000 volunteers to serve three months to repel the invasion as a portion of Lee’s army under General Jubal Early reached Gettysburg.

Off the Maine coast, the Confederate schooner Archer was destroyed by Federal steamboats and tugboats. Commanded by Lieutenant Charles W. “Savez” Reed, Archer had caused panic in New England by capturing 21 ships, including the Federal revenue cutter Caleb Cushing off Portland, in 19 days. The Federals had dispatched 47 vessels to find and destroy Archer.

Skirmishing occurred in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Louisiana.

Saturday, June 27.  Joseph Hooker submitted his resignation as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Hooker was infuriated by General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck’s order to hold Harpers Ferry and Maryland Heights, believing it compromised his command. To Hooker’s surprise, President Lincoln accepted. Hooker was unaware that Lincoln had been waiting for a reason to relieve him of command ever since his May defeat at Chancellorsville.

In Pennsylvania, Jubal Early’s Confederates captured York.

Sunday, June 28.  At 3 a.m., General George G. Meade, commander of Fifth Corps, was awakened and ordered to take command of the Army of the Potomac. Meade had no choice but to accept the tremendous responsibility and quickly formulate a strategy to stop Robert E. Lee’s northern invasion. By that afternoon, Meade developed a plan: “I must move toward the Susquehanna, keeping Washington and Baltimore well covered, and if the enemy is checked in his attempt to cross the Susquehanna, or if he turns toward Baltimore, give him battle.” President Lincoln approved Meade’s strategy.

When Lee learned that Meade had replaced Hooker, he abandoned plans to attack Harrisburg. Instead, Lee turned back south and began concentrating his Confederates near Gettysburg and Cashtown. At York, Jubal Early’s Confederates seized shoes, clothing, rations, and $28,600. In Virginia, Confederate cavalry under Jeb Stuart skirmished near Fairfax Court House.

In Tennessee, William Rosecrans’s Federals occupied Manchester as part of their Tullahoma Campaign. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Louisiana.

Monday, June 29.  George G. Meade’s Federals moved quickly through Maryland, and General John Buford’s Federal cavalry reached Gettysburg. In Tennessee, heavy skirmishing occurred as part of the Tullahoma Campaign. Other skirmishing occurred in Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

Tuesday, June 30.  In Tennessee, Confederates began evacuating Tullahoma as William S. Rosecrans’s Federals advanced on the town. In Pennsylvania, Robert E. Lee’s Confederates were converging on Gettysburg. President Lincoln rejected panicked pleas to reinstate George B. McClellan to army command during this crucial time. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri 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)

Advertisements

This Week in the Civil War: June 17-23, 1863

Wednesday, June 17.  In Georgia, the Confederate ironclad Atlanta, or Fingal, battled Federal ships Weehawken and Nahant at the mouth of the Wilmington River in Wassaw Sound. Atlanta was ultimately forced to surrender after being hit four times. This was a major loss for the small Confederate navy.

In Mississippi, Federal transports aiding the siege of Vicksburg were attacked by Confederates; this was one of several attacks on Federal shipping during the siege. Skirmishing occurred in Maryland as General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia continued its northward advance. Skirmishing also occurred in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Thursday, June 18.  In Mississippi, Federal General Ulysses S. Grant relieved General John A. McClernand as commander of Thirteenth Corps. McClernand had resented his subordinate status to Grant, arguing that his force should remain independent. Following the failed assaults on Vicksburg in May, McClernand had issued a congratulatory order to his men that disparaged the efforts of other Federal units. This gave Grant the reason he needed to dismiss him.

In Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate cavalry, commanded by General Jeb Stuart, held the approaches to the Blue Ridge. Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina, Missouri, and Louisiana

Friday, June 19.  Robert E. Lee’s leading Confederate corps, commanded by General Richard Ewell, moved north of the Potomac River toward Pennsylvania. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Louisiana.

Saturday, June 20.  President Lincoln issued a proclamation making West Virginia the 35th state. While Virginia voters had supported secession from the Union, voters in the farming and mining areas west of the Alleghenies largely opposed secession. Thus, Lincoln supported West Virginia’s secession from the rest of the state while opposing the southern secession from the rest of the Union.

Sunday, June 21.  At Vicksburg, a Confederate major said, “One day is like another in a besieged city–all you can hear is the rattle of the Enemy’s guns, with the sharp crack of the rifles of their sharp-shooters going from early dawn to dark and then at night the roaring of the terrible mortars is kept up sometimes all this time.” Skirmishing occurred among Robert E. Lee’s advance units in Virginia and Maryland. Skirmishing also occurred in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

Monday, June 22.  In Mississippi, skirmishing occurred around Vicksburg as part of the Federal siege. Also, skirmishing continued among Federals and Robert E. Lee’s advancing Confederates. Confederate raider Charles Read, captaining the captured Federal vessel Tacony, seized five Federal schooners.

Tuesday, June 23.  In Tennessee, General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland at Murfreesboro opposed General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee at Tullahoma. The Lincoln administration had been urging Rosecrans to attack, believing that this would prevent Bragg from sending reinforcements to Vicksburg. General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck finally wired Rosecrans: “I deem it my duty to repeat to you the great dissatisfaction felt here at your inactivity… Is it your intention to make an immediate move forward?” After several months of planning, Rosecrans resolved to begin advancing tomorrow.

In Louisiana, a skirmish at Brashear City resulted in the surrender of 1,000 Federals. In Virginia, General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, considered crossing the Potomac River in pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s Confederates. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Mississippi, Missouri, and the Nebraska Territory.

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: Jun 3-9, 1863

Wednesday, June 3.  General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia began moving west out of Fredericksburg, beginning what would become Lee’s second invasion of the North. The Federal Ninth Corps was transferred from Kentucky to reinforce General Ulysses S. Grant’s forces laying siege to Vicksburg, Mississippi.

In New York City, Mayor Fernando Wood and other Democrats met at the Cooper Institute to call for peace. In South Carolina, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first Federal black regiment, arrived at Port Royal. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Thursday, June 4.  In Virginia, two corps of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army moved out of Fredericksburg. Upon President Abraham Lincoln’s suggestion, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton revoked General Ambrose Burnside’s order closing down the Chicago Times; the Times had been suppressed for publishing “disloyal and incendiary statements.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

Friday, June 5.  In Virginia, General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, exchanged wires with President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck about Robert E. Lee’s movement. Hooker wanted to attack Lee’s remaining Confederates at Fredericksburg, while Lincoln and Halleck wanted Hooker to attack Lee’s forces moving west.

Saturday, June 6.  In Virginia, General Jeb Stuart, commanding Robert E. Lee’s Confederate cavalry, staged a grand review for Lee and other top Confederate officers, dignitaries, and ladies near Culpeper. The review raised noise and dust that was spotted by the Federals.

President Lincoln expressed concern about delayed telegrams from Vicksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, and the Indian Territory.

Sunday, June 7.  In Mississippi, a Confederate attack at Milliken’s Bend was repulsed, and Federals captured and burned Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s plantation, Brierfield. These actions helped to slowly strangle Vicksburg into submission. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Kentucky.

Monday, June 8.  In Mississippi, the punishing Federal siege of Vicksburg continued. A resident wrote of the endless artillery bombardment, “Twenty-four hours of each day these preachers of the Union made their touching remarks to the town. All night long their deadly hail of iron dropped through roofs and tore up the deserted and denuded streets.” Residents moved into caves on the town’s hillsides for refuge. Supplies dwindled and hungry people resorted to eating mules, dogs, cats, and rats.

In Virginia, Jeb Stuart staged another grand cavalry review for top Confederate officials that attracted Federal attention. Joseph Hooker dispatched cavalry and infantry under General Alfred Pleasonton to “disperse and destroy the enemy force.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Kansas.

Tuesday, June 9.  In Virginia, the Battle of Brandy Station occurred as Alfred Pleasonton’s Federals attacked Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry along the Rappahannock River, north of Culpeper. The lines surged back and forth for nearly 12 hours. Surprised by the attack, Stuart barely held off the Federals until Pleasonton finally withdrew. Although this was a Confederate victory, the battle proved that the Federal cavalrymen had become effective fighters. This bolstered Federal confidence and indicated to Joseph Hooker that the Confederates were moving north.

A powder magazine explosion killed 20 Federals and wounded 14 in Alexandria, Virginia. In Tennessee, two soldiers were hanged by Federals as spies. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Tennessee, 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)