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)

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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)

This Week in the Civil War: Apr 29-May 5, 1863

Wednesday, April 29.  In Virginia, a major part of General Joseph Hooker’s Federal Army of the Potomac crossed the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s and U.S. fords and moved into the Wilderness. This was part of Hooker’s plan to force General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates out of their impregnable positions in Fredericksburg and give battle. To further prod Lee, Hooker sent Federal cavalry under General George Stoneman between Lee and Richmond to catch the Confederates in a pincers movement.

On the Mississippi River, Admiral David D. Porter’s Federal naval fleet began shuttling General Ulysses S. Grant’s troops across the river. This was part of Grant’s plan to march southward past Vicksburg on the river’s west bank, then recross the river and attack the city from behind.

A Federal diversionary force under Colonel Benjamin Grierson continued raiding Mississippi, skirmishing at Brookhaven. In Missouri, General John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates skirmished at Castor River.

Thursday, April 30.  In Virginia, Joseph Hooker established headquarters at Chancellorsville, a small village in the Wilderness. Hooker did not order an attack; rather, he waited for Robert E. Lee’s Confederates to move into the open. Confident that Lee would be destroyed, Hooker proclaimed to his troops that “the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must ingloriously fly, or come out from behind their defenses and give us battle on our ground, where certain destruction awaits him.” However, Lee had a plan of his own.

On the Mississippi, the vanguard of Ulysses S. Grant’s army under General John A. McClernand assembled on the river’s east bank, south of Vicksburg and ready to advance inland unopposed. Grant later wrote, “All the campaigns, labors, hardships, and exposures, from the month of December previous to this time, that had been made and endured, were for the accomplishments of this one object.” Grant was aided by Benjamin Grierson’s cavalry diversion, as well as Federal demonstrations north of Vicksburg led by General William T. Sherman.

Skirmishing occurred in Alabama, western Virginia, and the Indian Territory.

Friday, May 1.  In Virginia, the Battle of Chancellorsville began. As Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac tried outflanking Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, Lee hurried to block the Federals’ exit from the Wilderness, a region of tangled underbrush that would offset the superior Federal numbers. Lee left about 10,000 men to face the Federal corps threatening Fredericksburg. After holding his ground in a series of skirmishes, Hooker ordered a withdrawal to stronger defensive positions around Chancellorsville. This stunned his subordinates, and although Hooker explained that he thought Lee was heavily reinforced, he later admitted, “For once, I lost confidence in Joe Hooker.”

The Federal withdrawal allowed Lee to seize the initiative. That evening, he discussed strategy with General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who proposed to split the army by sending Jackson’s corps to attack the vulnerable right flank. This was a bold plan because Lee’s army was already split between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. However, Lee approved.

In his effort to capture Vicksburg, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals continued crossing the Mississippi River south of the town at Bruinsburg. The lead Federal corps under General John A. McClernand moved inland toward Port Gibson, about 30 miles south of Vicksburg. A small Confederate force outflanked at Grand Gulf hurried to Port Gibson to intercept McClernand. After a day-long fight, the outnumbered Confederates withdrew. Securing Port Gibson allowed the main Federal force to establish strong positions at Grand Gulf.

Before adjourning, the Confederate Congress approved several measures, including creating a Provisional Navy to complement the Regular Navy; allowing the president to approve contracts for building naval vessels in Europe; allowing congressional delegates from various Indian nations; creating a commission on taxes; tightening provisions on the conscription law; and adopting a national flag known as the “Stainless Banner.”

Skirmishing occurred in Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee. In Missouri, John Marmaduke’s Confederates skirmished at Chalk Bluff on the St. Francis River as they returned to Arkansas.

Saturday, May 2.  In Virginia, “Stonewall” Jackson’s 28,000 Confederates moved around the Federal right flank. Federal scouts observed them and concluded they were retreating. However, Jackson attacked the unsuspecting Federal Eleventh Corps at 6 p.m. On the Federal left, Robert E. Lee’s remaining Confederates attacked to divert attention from Jackson, even though they were outnumbered by nearly four-to-one. The fight ended at nightfall with the Federals in disarray. During the night, “Stonewall” Jackson was accidentally shot by Confederate pickets while scouting positions.

In Louisiana, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals arrived in Baton Rouge after conducting one of the most successful cavalry operations of the war. Diverting Confederate attention from Ulysses S. Grant, Grierson’s men raided western Tennessee, killing 100 Confederates, taking 500 prisoners, destroying up to 60 miles of railroad and telegraph lines, capturing or destroying 3,000 arms, and seizing 1,000 horses and mules. Grierson’s men had traveled 600 miles and fought four engagements, evading thousands of Confederates along the way.

Skirmishing occurred in Alabama, Tennessee, and western Virginia.

Sunday, May 3.  In Virginia, “Stonewall” Jackson’s wounds from the previous night were so serious that he relinquished command to General Jeb Stuart. By morning, the Federals had established a V-shaped defensive line. When the Confederates attacked, the Federals slowly moved back. Joseph Hooker had tens of thousands of reserves that were yet to be deployed, but he ordered no counterattack. He was knocked unconscious when he was hit in the head by wood scattered from a Confederate shell. When he regained consciousness, Hooker ordered a general withdrawal.

In Alabama, Colonel A.D. Streight’s Federals surrendered to Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest after heavy raiding and skirmishing. The Roman Catholic bishop of Iowa threatened church members with excommunication if they refused to renounce the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle.

Monday, May 4.  In Virginia, the Federal corps at Fredericksburg broke through the Confederate defenses and joined Joseph Hooker’s main force. However, Hooker was already withdrawing his army across the Rappahannock River. Confederate President Jefferson Davis wired Lee his thanks on behalf of the people “reverently united with you in giving praise to God for the success with which He has crowned your arms.”

In Mississippi, Grant’s Federals continued moving south of Vicksburg, skirmishing at various places. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Tuesday, May 5.  In Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate prepared to attack Joseph Hooker’s Federals again. However, Hooker’s army fell back across the Rappahannock, ending the Battle of Chancellorsville in Federal defeat. Hooker was defeated by a force less than half his size that had been divided three times. This humiliated the North and has since been considered one of the greatest military victories in history. However, it was a pyrrhic victory for Lee because he suffered a much greater casualty percentage than Hooker.

Former Congressman Clement Vallandigham was arrested by Federal troops in Dayton, Ohio for violating General Order No. 38. The order, issued by Department of the Ohio commander Ambrose Burnside, had prohibited disloyalty in his jurisdiction. Vallandigham was one of the most outspoken “Copperheads,” or Peace Democrats who opposed the war. His specific offense had been delivering a speech calling the war “wicked and cruel,” where the object was not to preserve the Union but to subjugate the South and establish a Republican dictatorship.

Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia. Federals conducted operations against the Indians in the Utah and Idaho territories.

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: Oct 8-14, 1862

Wednesday, October 8.  In Kentucky, the Battle of Perryville occurred as parts of General Don Carlos Buell’s Federals fought a portion of General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate army. Buell was unaware that a battle was taking place until afternoon due to an atmospheric phenomenon that prevented him from hearing the fighting. Part of Bragg’s force was still in Frankfort. The Federals fought off hard Confederate attacks until Bragg withdrew to the southeast. This was the largest battle fought in Kentucky, and it stopped the Confederate invasion of the state, just as Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Maryland had also been stopped.

Thursday, October 9.  General Jeb Stuart led Confederate cavalry in a reconnaissance and raid into Maryland en route to Pennsylvania. Federal cavalry unsuccessfully tried stopping this ride around General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. The Confederate Congress established military courts with defined powers.

Friday, October 10.  Braxton Bragg’s Confederates began their withdrawal from Kentucky. Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry crossed the Potomac River into Maryland on the reconnaissance and raid of the Federal Army of the Potomac. Stuart reached Chambersburg, Pennsylvania by evening. In the Dakota Territory, Dakota Sioux Indians battled miners on the upper Missouri River below Fort Berthold. In Indiana, home guards drove off a band of Confederate guerrillas at Hawesville. President Jefferson Davis asked Virginia to provide 4,500 slaves to complete fortifications around Richmond. Confederate General John B. Magruder was assigned to command the Department of Texas.

Saturday, October 11.  In Pennsylvania, Jeb Stuart’s Confederates drove residents and officials out of Chambersburg and cut telegraph wires, destroyed railroad depots and equipment, seized horses, and burned any supplies they could not take. Stuart then moved southeast toward Emmitsburg, Maryland. The Confederate commerce raider Alabama destroyed the grain ship Manchester. Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law adding more exemptions to the Confederate draft. The most controversial provision exempted an owner or overseer of over 20 slaves. Richmond newspapers began discussing a possible end of the war due to recent Confederate victories.

Sunday, October 12.  Jeb Stuart’s Confederates crossed the Potomac back to Virginia after skirmishing at the mouth of the Monocacy River. General Earl Van Dorn assumed command of all Confederate troops in Mississippi. President Abraham Lincoln asked General Don Carlos Buell for updates in Kentucky; Lincoln was concerned that Buell was not pursuing the withdrawing Confederates fast enough.

Monday, October 13.  The second session of the First Confederate Congress adjourned after approving a bill suspending habeas corpus (with some exceptions) until February 12, 1863. President Lincoln wrote a letter to George McClellan urging him to renew the offensive against Robert E. Lee in Virginia: “Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing?” Federal General Jacob D. Cox assumed command of the District of Western Virginia. In Kentucky, Braxton Bragg’s Confederates began moving through Cumberland Gap back to Tennessee.

Tuesday, October 14.  In elections for congressional seats in Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Democrats gained seats in every state except Iowa. Many cited the Lincoln administration’s war policies and the Emancipation Proclamation as reasons why voters turned against Lincoln’s Republicans. Confederate General John C. Pemberton assumed command of the Department of Mississippi and Eastern Louisiana.