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)

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This Week in the Civil War: May 27-Jun 2, 1863

Wednesday, May 27.  In Louisiana, a massed Federal assault on Port Hudson failed, as the attackers became tangled in underbrush and fallen timbers. The Confederates held a strong position atop a bluff that commanded both the land and river approaches to Port Hudson. Federal commander Nathaniel Banks decided to place Port Hudson under siege.

President Abraham Lincoln wired General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac in northern Virginia, and General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Federal Army of the Cumberland at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to provide information about their movements.

Confederate cannon at Vicksburg shelled Federal gunboats on the Mississippi River, sinking Cincinnati and killing 40 men. C.S.S. Chattahoochee accidentally exploded on the Chattahoochee River, killing 18. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

Thursday, May 28.  The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment left Boston for Hilton Head, South Carolina as the first black regiment sent south. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi and the Indian Territory.

Friday, May 29.  President Lincoln refused General Ambrose Burnside’s offer to resign as commander of the Department of the Ohio. Burnside had drawn heavy criticism by arresting former Congressman Clement Vallandigham for speaking out against the war. Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton had denounced Burnside’s actions because they increased anti-war sentiment in the North.

Saturday, May 30.  General Robert E. Lee divided the Army of Northern Virginia into three corps: First Corps was commanded by General James Longstreet, Second Corps (formerly “Stonewall” Jackson’s command) was commanded by General Richard Ewell, and Third Corps was commanded by General A.P. Hill.

In New Jersey, Democrats met at Newark to protest the arrest of Clement Vallandigham. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas.

Sunday, May 31.  In Richmond, Robert E. Lee met with Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet. To relieve the pressure caused by Ulysses S. Grant’s relentless assault on Vicksburg in the West, Lee proposed a second invasion of the North. This would allow Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to feed off the rich northern farmlands and potentially force Grant to send troops east to stop the advance. Davis was uncertain, and some cabinet members believed that Lee should instead send troops west to relieve Vicksburg.

Davis also discussed the Western Theater with Lee, saying, “Genl. Johnston did not, as you thought advisable, attack Grant promptly, and I fear the result is that which you anticipated if time was given.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and South Carolina.

Monday, June 1.  In Richmond, Jefferson Davis and his cabinet voted five-to-one in favor of approving Robert E. Lee’s plan to invade the North.

Ambrose Burnside issued a general order: “On account of the repeated expression of disloyal and incendiary sentiments, the publication of the newspaper known as the Chicago Times is hereby suppressed.” This order outraged many northerners, especially since it came so soon after Burnside’s controversial arrest of Clement Vallandigham. Chicago leaders appealed to President Lincoln to rescind Burnside’s order.

Federals heavily bombarded the besieged Confederates at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Tuesday, June 2.  President Lincoln wired General Ulysses S. Grant, commanding the Federals at Vicksburg, “Are you in communication with Gen. Banks? Is he coming toward you, or going further off?” Lincoln wanted the two armies to link rather than conduct separate operations at Vicksburg and Port Hudson.

Having been banished to the South, Clement Vallandigham was sent to Wilmington, North Carolina by President Davis and put under guard as an “alien enemy.” Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

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