This Week in the Civil War: July 29 – Aug 4, 1863

Wednesday, July 29.  Following the string of Confederate defeats this month, Queen Victoria of England informed the British Parliament that she saw “no reason to depart from the strict neutrality which Her Majesty has observed from the beginning of the contest.”

President Abraham Lincoln stated that he opposed “pressing” General George G. Meade, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, into immediately attacking General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama. Federals clashed with Indians in the Dakota and New Mexico territories.

Thursday, July 30.  President Lincoln directed General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck to issue an order declaring the U.S. government would “give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy’s prisoners in our possession…” This “Order of Retaliation” was prompted by the Confederate order “dooming to death or slavery every negro taken in arms, and every white officer who commands negro troops.”

Lincoln’s order sought to offset the Confederacy’s “relapse into barbarism,” stating “the law of nations and the usages and customs of war as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war.” Under this order, “for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed; and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor.”

Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Friday, July 31.  In Virginia, Federals clashed with Confederates while crossing the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s Ford. Skirmishing occurred in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Saturday, August 1.  Federal Rear Admiral David D. Porter assumed command of naval forces on the Mississippi River. Now that the entire waterway was in Federal hands, Porter’s main objective was to defend against Confederate guerrilla attacks on Federal shipping.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis offered amnesty to all soldiers absent without leave if they would return to their units within 20 days. In asking for more sacrifice, Davis proclaimed that “no alternative is left you but victory, or subjugation, slavery and utter ruin of yourselves, your families and your country.”

In Virginia, a cavalry skirmish near Brandy Station ended the Gettysburg Campaign. On the South Carolina coast, Federals began concentrating for another attack on Battery Wagner in Charleston Harbor. The Federal War Department disbanded the Fourth and Seventh Army Corps.

Prominent Confederate spy Belle Boyd was imprisoned in Washington a second time after being apprehended in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Sunday, August 2.  On the South Carolina coast, Federals attacked the Confederate steamer Chesterfield off Morris Island in Charleston Harbor. President Davis wrote Robert E. Lee, “It is painful to contemplate our weakness when you ask for reinforcements.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia.

Monday, August 3.  In response to the New York City draft riots last month, New York Governor Horatio Seymour requested that President Lincoln suspend the military draft in his state. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Tuesday, August 4.  On the South Carolina coast, Federals continued bombarding Charleston Harbor while preparing the “Swamp Angel,” a massive cannon, to aid in the bombardment. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

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: 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)

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: Oct 29-Nov 4, 1862

Wednesday, October 29.  Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Texas, and Virginia. President Abraham Lincoln wrote to General George B. McClellan about the Army of the Potomac’s return to Virginia: “I am much pleased with the movement of the Army. When you get entirely across the (Potomac) river let me know. What do you know of the enemy?” Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote the Alabama governor about the difficulty in defending so many points at once: “Our only alternatives are to abandon important points or to use our limited resources as effectively as the circumstances will permit.”

Thursday, October 30.  General William S. Rosecrans assumed command of the Federal Department of the Cumberland, replacing General Don Carlos Buell. Emperor Napoleon III of France proposed that Russia and Great Britain mediate between the U.S. and the Confederacy to end the war. In South Carolina, prominent Federal General Ormsby M. Mitchel died of yellow fever at Beaufort.

Friday, October 31.  Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, and Federal forces began a two-day bombardment of Lavaca, Texas. Federal troops began concentrating at Grand Junction, Tennessee in preparation for General Ulysses S. Grant’s upcoming offensive against Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Saturday, November 1.  General Benjamin Butler, commanding Federal occupation forces in New Orleans, imposed stricter pass requirements and authorized the liberation of “slaves not known to be the slaves of loyal owners.” In North Carolina, a Federal expedition began from New Berne and featured several skirmishes over the next week.

Sunday, November 2.  Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, as General McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac began concentrating in the Blue Ridge. First Lady Mary Lincoln visited New York City.

Monday, November 3.  A Federal expedition began along the coasts of Georgia and eastern Florida. Among the Federals was one of the first black regiments, the First South Carolina Volunteers under Colonel Thomas W. Higginson, even though it would not be officially mustered into service until next year.

Tuesday, November 4.  In the midterm Federal elections, Democrats made substantial gains in the Senate and the House of Representatives. In New York, Democrat Horatio Seymour was elected governor. Democrats also won many seats in New Jersey, Illinois, and Wisconsin. These Democratic gains were largely attributed to war weariness and northern dissatisfaction with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamantion. Nevertheless, the Republicans retained their congressional majority with victories in New England, California, and Michigan. In Tennessee, Federal troops under General Ulysses S. Grant occupied La Grange and Grand Junction, which were important supply depots for his upcoming offensive against Vicksburg.

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