This Week in the Civil War: Aug 12-18, 1863

Wednesday, August 12.  On the South Carolina coast, Federal cannon began firing on Confederate positions at Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner in Charleston Harbor. This was an effort to test the range of the heavy Parrott rifles, but it began a new Federal offensive against the harbor. Fort Sumter was severely damaged by the batteries.

President Abraham Lincoln refused to grant an army command to General John McClernand, who had been relieved as corps commander by General Ulysses S. Grant for insubordination. A Federal expedition began from Memphis, Tennessee to Grenada, Mississippi. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi.

Thursday, August 13.  A Confederate army chaplain wrote to President Jefferson Davis “that every disaster that has befallen us in the West has grown out of the fact that weak and inefficient men have been kept in power… I beseech of you to relieve us of these drones and pigmies.” The recent Confederate defeats had caused dissension among the ranks, especially in the Western Theater. The chaplain cited General John C. Pemberton, who had surrendered at Vicksburg in July, and General Theophilus H. Holmes, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department.

Federals continued their practice fire on Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner from land batteries and naval guns. In Arkansas, a Federal expedition began up the White and Little Red Rivers. Federals also began an expedition against Indians in the Dakota Territory. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and Missouri.

Friday, August 14.  Federals continued their practice fire in Charleston Harbor. General George G. Meade, commander of the Federal Army of the Potomac, met with President Lincoln and his cabinet to provide details of the Gettysburg Campaign. In Virginia, Federal expeditions began near Winchester and the Bull Run Mountains. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Saturday, August 15.  In Virginia, a Federal expedition against Confederate partisans began from Centreville. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Arkansas.

Sunday, August 16.  In Tennessee, General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland began advancing on Chattanooga. Since Rosecrans had captured Tullahoma in July, the Lincoln administration had repeatedly urged him to continue his advance. Rosecrans had initially hesitated because his flanks were threatened by Confederates in Mississippi and eastern Tennessee. However, Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals now opposed the Confederates in Mississippi, and Ambrose Burnside’s Federals opposed Confederates in eastern Tennessee.

Rosecrans planned to cross the Tennessee River south and west of Chattanooga, hoping to trap General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee between his forces and Burnside’s. Meanwhile, Bragg desperately pleaded for President Davis to send him reinforcements. Confederate scouts informed Bragg that Rosecrans was advancing from the southwest at Stevenson while Burnside began moving on Knoxville. Bragg remained entrenched at Chattanooga, unsure of which force to fight.

Federals continued practice firing on Confederate targets in Charleston Harbor. Work crews hurried to repair damages to Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner before Federal artillery damaged them again.

President Lincoln wrote to New York Governor Horatio Seymour regarding the military draft: “My purpose is to be just and fair; and yet to not lose time.” A Federal expedition began from Memphis, Tennessee to Hernando, Mississippi. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Mississippi.

Monday, August 17.  On the South Carolina coast, Federal artillery opened in earnest against Fort Sumter and Batteries Wagner and Gregg. The 11 cannon on Morris Island included the 200-pound “Swamp Angel,” and were joined by naval guns in firing 938 shots that crumbled Sumter’s walls. But the rubble formed an even stronger defense against Federal fire.

Federal expeditions began from Cape Girardeau and Pilot Knob, Missouri to Pocahontas, Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Tuesday, August 18.  Federals continued their heavy bombardment of Fort Sumter and Batteries Wagner and Gregg. Confederate positions were severely damaged, but the troops refused to surrender.

In Washington, President Lincoln tested the new Spencer repeating rifle in Treasury Park. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Federals clashed with Indians in the New Mexico 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: 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: 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)

This Week in the Civil War: Oct 15-21, 1862

Wednesday, October 15.  Skirmishing occurred on various fronts. Admiral David Farragut reported that the Federals had secured Corpus Christi, Galveston, and Sabine City in Texas. North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance requested North Carolinians to provide blankets and clothing, for the Confederate Army.

Thursday, October 16.   Federal General George McClellan conducted two major reconnaissances from Maryland and northern Virginia. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was positioned in the northern Shenandoah Valley. General Ulysses S. Grant was given command of the new Federal Department of the Tennessee. The Federal militia draft began in Pennsylvania.

Friday, October 17.  In Pennsylvania, Luzerne County troops suppressed protests against the ineffective Federal militia draft. President Abraham Lincoln asked Attorney General Edward Bates to commission David Davis of Illinois as an associate justice on the Supreme Court.

Saturday, October 18.  In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders defeated Federal cavalry near Lexington, captured the city’s garrison, then moved on to Versailles. Other skirmishing occurred on various fronts.

Sunday, October 19.  Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee began moving through Cumberland Gap during their withdrawal from Kentucky. Various other skirmishing occurred.

Monday, October 20.  President Lincoln ordered a fellow Illinois politician, General John McClernand, to organize and lead a force on an expedition to Vicksburg, Mississippi. Since Vicksburg was in the jurisdiction of Ulysses S. Grant’s new military department, this order conflicted with Grant’s command. Lincoln also issued a memorandum reporting that the Army of the Potomac contained 231,997 men, of which 144,662 were fit for duty.

Tuesday, October 21.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to General T.H. Holmes in Missouri and shared tentative plans for combining various Confederate forces to drive the Federals out of Arkansas and Tennessee, and reclaim Helena, Memphis, and Nashville. President Lincoln requested civil and military authorities in Tennessee to organize pro-Federal elections for local, state, and national officials.

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