This Week in the Civil War: May 6-12, 1863

Wednesday, May 6.  In Virginia, General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia advanced into the Wilderness, but the opposing Federal Army of the Potomac had already withdrawn, ending the Battle of Chancellorsville. General A.P. Hill assumed command of the Confederate Second Corps, replacing the wounded General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

Jackson was brought to a farmhouse south of Fredericksburg to recuperate from wounds suffered during the Battle of Chancellorsville. After being shot in the left arm and hand on May 2, Jackson had his arm amputated below the shoulder.

In Ohio, a military tribunal convicted former Congressman Clement Vallandigham of expressing treasonable sympathies and disloyal utterances aimed at “weakening the power of the Government (to put down) an unlawful rebellion.” Vallandigham was sentenced to two years in a military prison. Such a harsh punishment sparked protests throughout the North, as many argued that Vallandigham had merely exercised his right to free speech by speaking out against the war. President Abraham Lincoln publicly supported Vallandigham’s arrest, but he knew the sentence would have political consequences.

In Louisiana, a Federal naval flotilla under Admiral David D. Porter occupied Alexandria. In Tennessee, a group of disloyal Federal citizens were sent into Confederate lines at Nashville. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, western Virginia, and Missouri.

Thursday, May 7.  In Mississippi, General William T. Sherman’s Federals joined Ulysses S. Grant’s main force south of Vicksburg. The large Federal army began advancing toward the railroad linking Vicksburg and the state capital of Jackson. Confederate President Jefferson Davis wired General John Pemberton, commanding at Vicksburg, “Am anxiously expecting further information of your active operations… To hold both Vicksburg and Port Hudson is necessary to our connection with Trans-Mississippi. You may expect whatever it is in my power to do for your aid.”

Confederate General Earl Van Dorn was assassinated by Dr. George Peters in Spring Hill, Tennessee after rumors had circulated that Van Dorn had a “liaison” with Peters’s wife. Most fellow officers acknowledged that Van Dorn was a notorious ladies’ man, and thus his murder came as no surprise.

In Virginia, President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck met with General Joseph Hooker at his Army of the Potomac headquarters. Hooker proposed an immediate Federal offensive to avenge his army’s fiasco at Chancellorsville, but Lincoln, worried that troop morale could be destroyed with another failure, instructed Hooker to wait.

Friday, May 8.  President Lincoln issued a proclamation stating that immigrants who had declared an intent to become U.S. citizens would not be exempted from military service; this sought to offset the wave of people claiming to be aliens to avoid the impending draft.

Saturday, May 9.  Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston was ordered to assume command of all troops in Mississippi. Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals skirmished near Utica. Other skirmishing occurred in Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee.

Sunday, May 10.  “Stonewall” Jackson died in Virginia. Jackson had contracted pneumonia while recovering from battle wounds, and it could not be medically treated. When told by his wife that he would not survive the day, Jackson said, “Very good, very good. It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday.” Confederate General Robert E. Lee issued General Order No. 61: “With deep regret the commanding general announces the death of Lieutenant General T.J. Jackson… Let his officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do everything in the defense of our loved Country.”

Jackson lay in state in the Confederate Capitol as people throughout the South mourned the loss of one of the Confederacy’s greatest leaders. He was buried in Lexington, where he had taught at the Virginia Military Institute before the war.

Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana and Kentucky.

Monday, May 11.  President Lincoln refused to accept the resignation of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase; Chase had threatened to resign due to a disagreement with Lincoln over the appointment of an official. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Virginia, and Tennessee.

Tuesday, May 12.  In Mississippi, a division of Ulysses S. Grant’s army was attacked by Confederates at Raymond. After several hours of fighting, the outnumbered Confederates withdrew toward Jackson; each side suffered about 500 casualties. This and other skirmishes prompted Grant to advance on Jackson before attacking Vicksburg. Meanwhile, Joseph E. Johnston struggled to give aid to John Pemberton’s Confederates in Vicksburg.

General Simon B. Buckner assumed command of the Confederate Department of East Tennessee. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Missouri, and Virginia.

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)