Civil War Timeline: 1863
January 1863January 1, 1863
Abraham Lincoln pulls himself away from greeting well-wishers on New Year’s Day to complete the business of putting the Emancipation Proclamation into effect. This is the date from which President Lincoln and the fate of the Union will be linked to freedom for those persons enslaved in areas that remain engaged “in rebellion against the United States.” The new policy also allows for the introduction of “such persons, of suitable condition . . . into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.” Lincoln terms the measure “an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity.”
Roundly criticized in the Confederacy as a policy most likely to induce a bloody servile insurrection, chided in some English journals as an act of desperation, assaulted in many Democratic sources as another signal of dictatorship, and facing an uncertain reception from the soldiery who had gone to war to save the Union, the Emancipation Proclamation has galvanized opponents of the Lincoln administration; it has also created conditions that undermine the Confederate war effort and add new impetus and potential troops to the Union cause.
In Richmond, Confederate war clerk, John B. Jones, records the persistent rumors afloat in the Confederate capital: “Then came a dispatch from Bragg which put us almost “beside” ourselves with joy . . . . Yesterday he attacked Rosecrans’s army near Murfreesboro and gained a great victory. He says he drove him from all his positions, except on the extreme left, and after ten hours’ fighting, occupied the whole of the field except (those exceptions!) the point named.”
Perhaps distrustful of the type of dispatches that normally arrive from that quarter, Jones adds: This is a Western dispatch it is true, but it has Bragg’s name on it, and he does not willingly exaggerate.”
In East Tennessee, Edward Guerrant witnesses the end of a tragic incident of friendly fire. Near “Reedy Creek Camp Ground” he notes “the last obsequies to the mortal remains of a dead soldier—a young man—a Kentuckian. Killed in the road nearby—by one of our own pickets. . . . It is thought he was asleep on his horse & didn’t hear the sentinel when he challenged, & unconscious, rode in at the gate of Death. Farewell, poor boy.”January 2, 1863
Much of the fighting on this second day of battle along Stones River, near Murfreesboro, centers on efforts by John C. Breckinridge to drive off a Union force that has crossed the river. Despite his protests, Breckinridge delivers the blow that clears the ridge, but as the Southerners pursue, effective use of artillery pummels the Confederates, leaving them bloodied and battered. In two days of active fighting Rosecrans has suffered 1,677 killed, 7,543 wounded and 3,686 missing or captured. Bragg has lost 1,294 dead, 7,945 wounded and some 2,500 missing or captured of his own.
At Richmond, city’s chief magistrate Joseph Mayo makes the mistake of accosting a friend by approaching him from behind and pretending to rob him, demanding “his money or his life.” According to the account, a companion traveling with the friend then “fell upon the mayor with a stick and beat him dreadfully before the joke was discovered.”January 4, 1863
William T. Sherman believes that he can best serve the Union cause, and achieve the eventual, if so far elusive, goal of taking Vicksburg, by capturing Arkansas Post. The Confederate forces defending that position have conducted harassing operations and threaten supply lines and communications for any Federal advance along the Mississippi River. Of the recently failed Chickasaw Bluff campaign, Cump tells his wife Ellen: “Well we have been to Vicksburg, and it was too much for us, and we have backed out.”
In the meantime, the ambitious political general, John A. McClernand, has arrived on the scene with President Lincoln’s apparent approval to assume immediate command on this portion of the Mississippi River. McClernand has determined to remain autonomous of other troops, and other commanders, in the region.
Under pressure from the Commander-in-Chief, Union general Henry Halleck informs Ulysses Grant that he must revoke General Order Number 11, the expulsion order of Jewish merchants and traders from his department.January 5, 1863
Diarist Emma Holmes recounts the status of the “dear old Palmetto Guard.”
A servant of one of the remaining officers has returned and “says the P.G. have scarcely ten of the original members left. Yet, it went out with 115 rank and file, afterwards increased to 150. . . . It makes me too sad to think of the mournful changes wrought by disease and battle in that gallant corps, of which we have always been so proud. At one time, I knew almost every name & certainly half of them personally, or by sight.”
Confederate president Jefferson Davis has returned to Richmond from an extensive inspection of his commands in the Western Theater. He has seen none of the military action that has characterized the major fighting at Vicksburg or Murfreesboro, but he is more determined than ever to see the war to a successful end. He argues that accomplishing independence for the Confederacy will allow “the perpetuation of that system of government which our forefathers founded,” even in the face of an implacable and unscrupulous foe. “Every crime which could characterize the course of demons has marked the course of the invader,” Davis insists.
From Centreville, Va., Thomas J. Goree writes family members expressing his frustrations and reservations concerning President Davis. “Mr. Davis’ motto seems to be: ‘Rule or Ruin.’ Our generals here are too independent to suit his ideas, and have an unfortunate habit of thinking some for themselves.
Mr. Davis is undoubtedly a great man, but he has his faults, his whims, and his unbounded prejudices.”January 6, 1863
The news settles heavily in Richmond that Stones River is not the victory it had been thought to be. A perplexed J.B. Jones observes, “To-day we are all down again. Bragg has retreated from Murfreesboro. I do not know how to reconcile Bragg’s first dispatches, and particularly the one saying he had the whole field, and would follow the enemy, with this last one announcing his withdrawal and retirement from the field.”
From Bristol, on the Virginia-Tennessee border, Ned Guerrant responds to the same news: “Evening’s Republican gives the sad intelligence of Bragg’s falling back from Murfreesboro’ . . . . I don’t like these falling back movements. My strategy goes forward.”
Aboard the steamer Forest Queen Sherman writes to explain to brother John that he has advocated an attack on Arkansas Post. “Success in this quarter will have a good Effect on the Main River. But in the end Vicksburg must be reduced, and it is going to be a hard nut to crack—It is the strongest place I ever saw, both by nature and art. . . .”
Emma Holmes receives a letter from Fredericksburg, desolated by war, but with the Federals reeling from their recent defeat. The note includes the story of a Union picket who called out across the river wanting “to know if there was a corporal in our army that we wished to exchange for Burnside.” On activities elsewhere she observes, in language General Sherman has used himself, “Vicksburg has been abandoned by the enemy as a nut too hard to crack.”
From Louisville, Ky., Lieutenant Colonel Emerson Opdycke pauses to write his wife on his way to join the army under William Rosecrans: “Rosecrans’ has done well, thus far, much better than I feared he would do. Our western armies are nearly always successful; would to Heaven the eastern army was equally so, for then this rebellion would soon end.”
He is convinced that he has the formula for Union success, with armies amply filled under Grant and other generals, leading to the capture of Vicksburg, the defeat of Bragg and a final decisive push against Richmond by the combined Federal forces. “That I may not know half as much as I think I do, is true, but I do not beleive [sic]any thing of the kind; and shall give myself full credit for what I think I know, whether any one else does or not!”January 7, 1863
John B. Jones is one of a number of individuals in the Confederacy attempting to come to grips with the tangible meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation. But the evidence is both convenient and contradictory:
“A large body of slaves passed through the city to-day, singing happily. They had been working on the fortifications north of the city, and go to work on them south of it. They have no faith in the efficacy of Lincoln’s Emancipation.
But it is different in Norfolk; 4000 enfranchised slaves marched in procession through the town the other day in a sort of frantic jubilee. They will bewail their error; and so will the Abolitionists. They will consume the enemy’s commissary stores; and if they be armed, we shall get their arms.”
Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke’s Confederate forces enter Ozark, Mo., with the larger goal of threatening Springfield.January 8, 1863
Union troops maintain their grip on Springfield, Mo., as Marmaduke suffers a repulse when he tests the defenses. Although not heavy, the Confederate losses (240) are twice those of the Federals (163).
Abraham Lincoln responds to General John McClernand on the matter of emancipation: “Still, to use a coarse, but an expressive figure, broken eggs can not be mended. I have issued the emancipation proclamation, and I can not retract it. After the commencement of hostilities, I struggled nearly a year and a half to get along without touching the ‘institution’ ; and when finally I conditionally determined to touch it, I gave a hundred days fair notice of my purpose, to all the States and people, within which time they could have turned it wholly aside, by simply again becoming good citizens of the United States. They chose to disregard it, and I made the peremptory proclamation on what appeared to me to be a military necessity. And being made, it must stand.”January 9, 1863
Marmaduke remains active in Missouri as a small force of Confederate cavalry captures Hartville.
In the wake of the losses associated with Stones River/Murfreesboro, William S. Rosecrans reorganizes the Army of the Cumberland into three corps under George H. Thomas, Alexander McD. McCook, and Thomas L. Crittenden.January 10, 1863
A court-martial panel issues its ruling on the case of Major General Fitz John Porter. Friend of George McClellan and critic of those not similarly aligned, he has supposedly disobeyed orders John Pope had issued to him at Second Manassas, and is thus to be dismissed from the service.January 11, 1863
McClernand and David Dixon Porter attack Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post and compel a surrender by Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill and the Confederate defenders. Total Union casualties consist of 1,061 to their opponents’ 109, but 4,791 Southerners and the fort are now in Federal hands. Grant wants McClernand, or more importantly, William T. Sherman, back under his direct supervision for a campaign against Vicksburg itself.
Hartville, Mo., is again the scene of fighting, but the outcome is less positive for the Confederates than it had been a few days earlier. John Marmaduke pulls back from his Missouri raid after sustaining disproportionate losses.
The C.S.S. Alabama provides a happier outcome for the Southern cause as its crew engages and sinks the U.S.S. Hatteras near Galveston, Texas. A dash by Confederate raiders above Memphis nets them the U.S.S. Grampus No. 2 as a prize, which they burn.January 12, 1863
The Confederate Congress is back in session, with a still livid Jefferson Davis condemning Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Union colonel Alvin Coe Voris has traveled to New Bern, N.C. from Virginia, but remains pessimistic over the course of the war thus far:
“At one time since I came into the army I indulged the idea that by this time the fighting would have been over & we of the army at home enjoying the good results of a successful war against the rebellion, but I have no such hope now for any subsequent period. We are still no nearer that end than we were on this day in 1862.”
Still, if affairs had looked dark under “the grand Army of the Potomac . . . [which] has been defeated again & again, and never has had the prestige of a decisive victory,” the troops he has encountered in North Carolina have a different attitude born of a different battlefield record. “The soldiers really believe they can thrash the secesh, and will go at them with a will, & confidence that will be likely to succeed.”January 13, 1863
Union forces enjoy success in the Trans-Mississippi, while Confederate raiders, this time under cavalry commander Joseph “Fighting Joe” Wheeler, capture another Federal vessel. In the meantime, water-borne misfortunes for the Union continue as U.S.S. Columbia runs aground on the coast of North Carolina and has to be abandoned, only to be captured and burned.January 14, 1863
The tables turn for the Confederates as one of their gunboats, the Cotton, has to be scuttled near Bayou Teche, LouisianaJanuary 15, 1863
The commerce raider C.S.S. Florida makes for the open sea from Mobile, Alabama.January 19, 1863
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation remains the hottest topic in the Confederate Congress.
Elsewhere in Virginia, Ambrose Burnside is finally on the move, hoping to redeem his earlier setback at Fredericksburg.January 20, 1863
Rain slashes the routes along which Burnside plans to operate and the command begins to bog down in the mud and muck.
In distant Southwest Virginia staffer Ned Guerrant scans the newspapers for the latest from the front and concludes: “Papers contain nothing new of importance. No fighting—ergo no news—nothing important. After this war newspapers will not be in as great demand. The thirst for blood seems almost insatiable.”January 21, 1863
More rain plagues Union efforts in Virginia, both for Burnside and elsewhere. In Jonesville, Lee County, Va., Confederate aide Guerrant records: “Supply of mud now equal to demand. Water grows luxuriantly about here.”January 22, 1863
With movement ground to a halt, Burnside must now consider the manner in which he will disengage from his “Mud March,” which has proven disastrous for morale and the general’s future as commander of the Army of the Potomac.
In the meantime, President Lincoln attempts to ameliorate internal command problems emanating from General McClernand in Mississippi. He tells the Illinois Democrat-turned general, “I have too many family controversies, (so to speak) already on my hands, to voluntarily, or so long as I can avoid it, take up another. . . . Allow me to beg, that for your sake, for my sake, & for the country’s sake, you give your whole attention to the better work.”
Unlike his colleague Thomas Goree in Centreville, Edward Guerrant salutes Jefferson Davis: “Read the President’s Message to Congress. President Davis has in this document placed his name among the ablest Statesmen of the age,--& written a state paper that will add imperishable renown to his already well earned fame as a Statesman—Warrior & Patriot. I don’t remember its equal. It will be hereafter on the same scroll with [George] Washington’s ‘Farewell address.’”January 23, 1863
Beset by dissension in the ranks as well as atrocious weather, Burnside hopes to remove several subordinate commanders, provided he will remain in command himself.January 24, 1863
Lincoln consults with Henry Halleck about the fate of the leadership of the Army of the Potomac. Two dismal setbacks do not bode well for Burnside’s continuation in that role.January 25, 1863
Burnside wants Joseph Hooker out, but by the end of the day, “Fighting Joe” has replaced him as head of the Army of the Potomac. Relief has double meanings as Burnside’s troubled tenure as army commander comes to an end.
Near Vicksburg, Sherman sends several communications on the state of the conflict as he sees it. To the man in chair of revising the articles of war, he laments the increasing difficulty of controlling the behavior of the troops in the field: “Plunder, arson & devastation mark the progress of our armies, & I see no signs of discrimination. On the contrary the highest officers are becoming callous & giving up all efforts to prevent their commission by the futility of all [their] efforts.”
At the same time, Cump indicates to his brother in Washington his desire to wage total war against their Confederate adversaries: “The early delusions of the War are now passed and I doubt if even [Secretary of State William] Seward would again attempt to put down the Rebellion, break its back bone, clean his way to the sea make commerce follow the flag etc. etc. pretty generalities all in six short months with 75,000 paper soldiers. No, you must now see that to subdue the Rebellion you must obliterate a whole Race, our equals in courage, resources, and determination.”January 26, 1863
Abraham Lincoln tells Joseph Hooker, “I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons. And yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which, I am not quite satisfied with you.” In the process, Lincoln illustrates his astuteness at assessing circumstances and human nature as he expresses support for Hooker and comments, mostly favorably, on his new army commander’s personality, before he notes the troubling aspects that have caused him to be less enthusiastic than he might otherwise have been: “But I think that during Gen. Burnside’s command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which [case] you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course, it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the utmost of it’s ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders.”January 27, 1863
Fort McAllister, a Confederate work located below Savannah, Georgia, comes under attack by the Union navy. Rear Admiral Samuel F. Du Pont employs the monitor Montauk in the force that bombards the fort.January 28, 1863
Sherman is feeling beset by press attacks, telling Ellen, “The newspapers are after me again. I published an order they must not come along [on his campaigns] on pain of being treated as spies. I am now determined to test the question. Do they rule on the Comdg. General. If they Rule I quit. I have ordered the arrest of one, shall try him & if possible execute him as a spy.”
Colonel A.C. Voris has remained on-board a vessel on the coast of North Carolina awaiting transshipment with his command and reaching the end of his reservoir of patience:
“The history of the war will be written in glowing terms of the valor of the troops, the glory of the Generals, and after the sorrow stricken thousands are forgotten nothing will be left but the bright spots of the war.”
This service decidedly does not constitute one of those “bright spots” to him.January 29, 1863
The Confederate Congress indicates its approval of a loan of $15 million through the auspices of Frenchman Emile Erlanger and underwritten by cotton as collateral.January 30, 1863
Another Union gunboat, Isaac Smith, falls into Confederate hands while scouting near Charleston, South Carolina.
An engagement occurs in southeastern Virginia, near Suffolk, as forces under Michael Corcoran and Roger Atkinson Pryor clash. Fighting at Kelly’s Store or Deserted House ends as Pryor’s Confederate troops pull back from their probe toward the rail and road junction that leads to Norfolk and Portsmouth. The fight has been short, but sharp, with approximately 143 Union and 52 Confederate casualties. One Floyd County, Va., Southerner explains of his experience under fire: “The Canon Shot flew thick among us. I cold see the canon balls flying with a streak of fier to them for it was before day. This is level country and no hills to Shelter a man from a canon ball.”January 31, 1863
Perhaps buoyed by recent successes, the Confederates at Charleston, S.C., prepare to engage the Union blockading fleet with the gunboats Chicora and Palmetto State. Several Union vessels sustain damage and casualties among the blockading crews are not insignificant, but the action hardly constitutes the lifting of the Union blockade as the Southerners had hoped.
War Clerk Jones notes two tales of war casualties that illustrate the internecine nature of this civil war. One is of a Confederate major who boarded the captured Harriet Lane at Galveston to find among its crew his mortally wounded son and the other is the son of the C.S.S. Virginia’s former commander Franklin Buchanan, who has fallen to a sharpshooter’s bullet while serving aboard a Union gunboat. Jones concludes, “Thus we are reminded of the wars of the roses—father against son, and brother against brother.”
February 1863February 1, 1863
Union attacks on Fort McAllister, near Savannah, Georgia, continue, leading to the death of the Confederate commander, Major John B. Gallie, when a Union shell strikes him down as he urges his cannoneers to greater deliberation in aiming their weapons. The bombardment lasts some five hours.
The state legislature of Virginia is considering a bill to suppress extortion.
Stung by newspaper accounts and allegations concerning his failed operation at Chickasaw Bluffs outside Vicksburg, William T. Sherman requests that Admiral David D. Porter compose “a few lines” in his defense, addressing specific points and “generally whether I acted the part of an intelligent officer or that of an insane fool.”February 2, 1863
Despite taking a dozen hits from Confederate artillerists, the Queen of the West slips past Vicksburg defenders.
Confederate War Clerk John B. Jones laments the chance for intervention by European powers: “It is not a question of right, or of might, with France and England—but of inclination.”
Cump Sherman remains distressed and launches a diatribe against one newspaper correspondent whom he deems a “spy & infamous dog.” The incensed soldier concludes, “I do know the day will come when every officer will demand the execution of this Class of Spies, and without further hesitation I declare if I am forced to look to the New York Herald for my Law & Master, instead of the Laws and Constituted Authorities of the United States my military career is ended.”
Despite sleeping for a time in the vicinity of mules being transported along with his unit, John King of the 92nd Illinois, finds the company of his comrades equally challenging: “When we first got aboard the boats a great many men had their rations of whiskey and others had their appetites so whittled up that they stole out of their ranks while coming through the city and got their canteens filled with bourbon. Many of the men got beastly drunk after getting aboard.”February 3, 1863
A Confederate raid under the command of Major General Joseph Wheeler tests the defenses of Dover, Tennessee. In a rash moment in which he believes that shifting Union forces might indicate a retreat, Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest dashes at the works. Union troops under Colonel A.C. Harding repulses these assaults with heavy losses in the Southern ranks, prompting an angry Bedford Forrest to insist afterward: “General Wheeler, I advised you against this attack, and said all a subordinate officer should have said against it . . . . I mean no disrespect to you; you know my feelings of personal friendship for you; you can have my sword if you demand it; but there is one thing I do want you to put in that report to General Bragg—tell him that I will be in my coffin before I will fight again under your command.” The Confederates have lost over 850 total casualties, but Wheeler assumes full responsibility and Forrest keeps his sword.
Confederate staffer Ned Guerrant notes the cold conditions and the prevailing rumors swirling around his headquarters posting on the border region of Virginia and Tennessee: “The tendency of the North seems inclined to peace—preached by Democrats (as a pretext for an armistice) still in favor of ‘the Union.’ But there is no Union.”
President Lincoln uses the opportunity of an address “to the workingmen of London,” to reiterate the principles of the war as he sees them in the wake of the Emancipation Proclamation:
“The resources, advantages, and powers of the American people are very great, and they have, consequently, succeeded to equally great responsibilities. It seems to have devolved upon them to test whether a government, established on the principles of human freedom, can be maintained against an effort to build one upon the exclusive foundation of human bondage.”February 4, 1863
Staff officer Thomas Goree, with James Longstreet in Virginia bemoans his inability to secure a furlough: “It is right hard to be refused so, after having performed my duty so long and so faithfully, but General Longstreet says he is in constant expectation of another attack from the enemy, and in that event cannot spare me.
I suppose that as soon as the roads become passable for artillery, General Hooker will be fool enough to make an attack on us. If he does, I think he will go the way of McDowell, McClellan, Pope & Burnside have gone. Our generals, I think, have less dread of ‘fighting Joe Hooker’ than anyone they have yet to contend against.”
South Carolinian Laban Mauldin assesses the prospects for peace from the soldier’s perspective: “You speak something of peace being made this year. Oh if peace only could be made soon I could not express my joy, for I tell you I am ageting tired of such a life as this (I mean peace favorable to the Confederacy I never will be willing to except peace otherwise).”
Sherman thanks Porter for his letter of support. “Before Vicksburg, my mind was more intent on the enemy intrenched behind those hills than on the spies and intriguers of my own camp and ‘at home.’
The spirit of anarchy seems deep at work at the North, more alarming than the batteries that shell at us from the opposite shore.”February 5, 1863
“Fighting Joe” Hooker reorganizes the Army of the Potomac into corps rather than grand divisions.
From his camp near Guinea Station, Virginian John Lee Holt passes along word to his wife of the rollicking time the men are having in camp during the winter lull, when the prospects of further campaigning are lessened and the hope of furloughs increased: “It is snowing again today but we are much better off than we were the other snow & are now all sitting around the fire of our snug little tent fireplace & look out at the falling snow with pleasure and delight as I have no doubt it will add greatly to our chances of getting furloughs.”
At Fredericksburg, Tally Simpson conveys his opinions in a long letter that ranges in topic from snow and snowball fights to an eggnog concoction he and his mates have devised. Then he turns to larger matters: “You ask my opinion as to the continuation of the war. I find myself at a loss what to say. At times I am very hopeful of a speedy termination of hostilities. Then again I am compelled to believe in my heart that it may be a year or more ere this unholy war ceases. I watch with satisfaction the growing disturbances between the citizens of the North and hope that the party spirit which is increasing in strength and severity between the eastern and western states will eventually divide them entirely and eternally. Then we may look for peace. . . . I am still hopeful that France will step in before long and decide in our favor. I have lost all confidence in England. I despise her, and let her go.”
Some of the men with whom Union surgeon John Bennitt is traveling “above the mouth of the Cumberland River” prompt him to observe to his wife: “They are about as rough a sett of customers as it was ever my lot to fall in with. Card-playing—Whiskey drinking—smoking—swearing are the[ir] chief employments.”
At the same time, John King has reached the area of Fort Donelson and Dover, Tennessee, where the harried defenders are overjoyed at the appearance of reinforcements. The soldier from Illinois concludes, “I had read long accounts nearly a year before of the great battle at Fort Donaldson and thought I should be delighted to visit that place and see all the old battle scars and landmarks made famous in history. Now the opportunity was before me but one thing discouraged me. It was nearly a year since the great victory of Fort Donaldson was won, and only yesterday another battle was fought to hold it. It seemed to me that the fighting ought to be farther south after a year’s campaign and fighting.”February 6, 1863
Edward Guerrant notes: No intervention from abroad. Louis Napoleon ‘will postpone his action till a more favorable opportunity’ to stop the effusion of oceans of blood.”February 7, 1863
Surgeon Bennitt reaches the vicinity of Fort Donelson, where the signs of the recent fighting between Wheeler/Forrest and the Union garrison can still be seen. They leave an indelible impression upon the new arrival, which he shares with his wife, “The newspaper accounts of the matter may be fuller than I have time to write, but to have any just appreciation of the matter one must see the havoc made here.
A very severe contest for some time was in the grave yard--& there is scarcely a stile or monument there, without the marks of canon or musket shot. On one stone I counted the marks of over 30 Balls—many of the stones broken to fragments—the fences around the graves shivered—even the trees with marks of canon balls—with limbs cut off by shot or shell. . . . Houses, and buildings of all kinds are perforated in all directions—There is scarcely one of any kind that has escaped. I noticed one in which the Rebels took refuge for a short time. It had three canon shot through it & on one side was like a peper-box from the musket balls—about half of them passing entirely through.”
Charlestonians celebrate the arrival of three blockade-runners that have eluded the Union blockaders.February 8, 1863
Concern arises in local Confederate circles when the first brigade of the Union 9th Corps arrives in Newport News, Virginia. The region has served as a staging area for the movement of forces against positions along the Confederate Atlantic seaboard.
Wisconsin officer Halbert Paine is busy with martial details in the bayou country of Louisiana when a local resident appears before him with an unusual complaint: “[A] well dressed and apparently intelligent gentleman accosted me in a state of great excitement. He was burdened with a heavy grievance. He informed me that my soldiers were shocking the modesty of his daughters who were young ladies by bathing at Plaquemine in the river Mississippi before their eyes and wanted the nuisance abated at once.”
Paine had previously heard nothing of the matter and when he learned that the man actually lived across the river and two or three miles from where the Union bathing activities were taking place: “I asked him how it could be possible that his daughters could be shocked by bathers at such a distance or could see them at all. ‘Why Sir,’ said he ‘my daughters have a very powerful field glass.’ To his intense disgust I declined to interdict the bathing. I concluded that if he would hide that very powerful field glass where his daughters could not find it the young ladies would not again be shocked by bathing soldiers.”February 10, 1863
Illinois soldier John King finds the Tennessee state capital rather appealing and bursting with activity: “Nashville is a great city for theaters. There are three or four at full blast every night and they are all well attended.”February 11, 1863
James M. Mason has not given up his quest of convincing Great Britain to recognize the Confederate States of America, but the commissioner’s task remains a difficult one in the absence of a decisive battlefield victory.February 12, 1863
Cruising the waters of the West Indies, the CSS Florida takes the Jacob Bell with a valuable cargo worth some two million dollars.February 13, 1863
Charles Sherwood Stratton, better known as General Tom Thumb, and his new bride spend a portion of their honeymoon in the presence of President and Mrs. Lincoln at the White House.
On the distant coast of South Carolina, Alvin Coe Voris observes plaintively, “It will be St. Valentine’s day tomorrow but I hardly expect anything from the merry Saint. Uncle Samuel is not verry attentive in his effort to furnish mail matters. The Regt has had no letters for nearly a month.
I cannot but feel disheartened. The army feels so. Its enthusiasm has departed. If the people at home feel as the army does, our cause is in a precarious condition.”February 14, 1863
On the Red River, the Queen of the West enjoys early success in taking the New Era No. 5, but then runs aground, prompting her abandonment and necessitating the eventual transfer of the crew to the captured vessel.
Diarist Emma Holmes releases her continuing passions for the struggle she has endured: “Three years ago we would not have believed it possible that those with whom we had been so long and so closely connected, whom we considered as brethren, could have been guilty of such lying & vilest treachery, which has marked their course in every step of this unholy war.
Is it possible for any sane man to dream for an instant after such reiterated acts, of Re-construction,--rather let every man, woman and child perish in one universal self-immolation and our blessed country become a wide-spread desert than become the slaves of such demons as they have shown themselves. We, the free-born descendants of the Cavaliers, to submit to the descendants of the witch burning Puritans, whose God is the Almighty Dollar. Never! I thank God I am a Southerner and South Carolinian.”February 15, 1863
General Lee informs Secretary of War James A. Seddon that he will send troops under Major General George E. Pickett to Richmond, until the threat posed by the movement of the Union 9th Corps on the Virginia Peninsula can become clearer. Lee assures the shaken cabinet official: “Pickett’s division can meet and beat it wherever it goes.”February 16, 1863
With Seddon’s ruminations about the fate of the Confederate capital in mind, Lee orders Major General John B. Hood’s division to move in the direction of Richmond.February 17, 1863
Union doctor Bennit has turned more circumspect as he moves deeper into Dixie. Near Nashville, he writes his wife, Lottie, “There is a subdued feeling among men and officers—a feeling that we are far from home, in the midst of an enemy’s country; and that very many of us will probably never see home again & men begin to question in their minds—who will be next to fall—perhaps I.”February 18, 1863
James Longstreet follows in the wake of two of his divisions as these troops shift to protect Richmond from a potential attack. He has craved an independent command and is in the process of getting one by virtue of these circumstancesFebruary 21, 1863
At Fredericksburg, Tally Simpson has his eyes on Vicksburg, far to the west: “The papers contain no news with the exception of the slight bombardment of Vicksburg. I am fearfully alarmed about that place. The Yankees are moving heaven & earth to reduce that point of all points to us, and if they succeed, the moral effect produced thereby upon the mind of the northwest will be much more serious than a great many will imagine. I am looking to that quarter for a blow upon the North that will strike terror to its vitals. But if Vicksburg falls, it may make a change in the aspect of affairs.”February 22, 1863
Rufus Kinsley, a New Englander serving in Louisiana, spends a portion of the day in local services: “Attended Catholic church at Thibodaux. First Sunday in Lent. Enough holy water sprinkled to drown a Yankee congregation; but the residents of these Louisiana swamps are amphibious, and stood it like ducks in a shower.”
Pennsylvanian Spencer Bonsall notes the weather and conditions before detecting a curious sound: “At noon, mingled with the blasts of the storm, came a deep booming of artillery; at first we were in doubts as to the cause, but a glance at the date above reminded us that it is the anniversary of the natal day of a noble Virginian, George Washington by name, and one that appears to have been forgotten by the degenerate children of this once noble state.”February 23, 1863
President Lincoln has in his hands the resignation of former Secretary of War Simon Cameron as the minister to Russia.February 24, 1863
The Indianola comes under attack by a small fleet of Confederate vessels, including the recently appropriated Queen of the West. In the struggle, the Indianola takes on water and its commander, George Brown, strikes his flag.
Vermonter Rufus Kinsley notes another disaster in the Louisiana bayou country: “We met with a very serious loss last night, at about twelve o’clock. The gun boat Grey Cloud, which was up the Teche on picket, ran against a ‘snag,’ and started at once for her mooring at this wharf, leaking badly. She had just reached this point, when she sank, not more than twenty feet from shore, carrying down a number of men, 7, and all her heavy rifled cannon.”
Augustus Ball, a Georgian who has moved to Texas, is on his way toward Houston with his unit. At Pittsburg, Texas, Gus pauses to tell his wife how the journey has begun: “You must not be uneasy about me for I will do the best I can for myself you know. . . . I am doing as well as ever, and are having a goodele of fun with the boys. We are putting all of them on double duty for staying out of camp. So I will have but little duty to do.”
The Arizona Territory is now a reality by action of the United States Congress.February 25, 1863
Another Trent affair threatens to loom over relations between the United States and Great Britain as the USS Vanderbilt stops the British merchant vessel Peterhoff under orders from Acting Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes. Fortunately for international peace, there are no Confederate diplomats to seize and the provocation of supplies reaching Mexican ports where they can gain entry into Texas offers the grounds for prompting the action.
Emerson Opdycke believes that the North must coalesce behind the war effort, and doing so will prove irresistible to the continuation of the rebellion: “Traitors at home, are doing us as much harm as those at Richmond. The South could not face a united North six months.”
William Dorsey Pender has spent time with his wife and family, but returns to duty to face the politics of his profession. The North Carolinian is sure that prime among his internal obstacles to advancement is none other than Stonewall Jackson. He tells his wife, Fanny: “My promotion hangs as it did and really I do not expect it for months if at all. Gen. Jackson is in my way having recommended another man. I never will vote for his being President.”February 26, 1863
The Cherokee Indian National Council moves dramatically away from its earlier stance on secession and slavery.
James Longstreet assumes command of a department that spans the region of eastern Virginia from Richmond to the coast and the entirety of North Carolina.
What amounts to a large prank on the part of the Federals pays meaningful dividends when a coal barge made to appear as an ironclad approaches the captured Indianola in the dark. A makeshift crew panics and destroys the vessel to prevent its recapture.February 27, 1863
President Davis calls for a day of fasting and prayer to occur in a month’s time as he and the Confederacy face another season of combat.February 28, 1863
John L. Worden takes the monitor Montauk into the Ogeechee River near Savannah, to destroy the grounded Rattlesnake, formerly the CSS Nashville. Confederate cannon crews in Fort McAllister can neither prevent the vessel’s destruction nor do significant damage to the Montauk. Retribution of a sort for the loss of the once-celebrated Rebel raider comes as the departing Union vessel strikes a torpedo (or mine) and beaches in order to remain afloat until repairs can be made.
March 1863March 1, 1863
Kentucky staff officer Edward Guerrant notes the recent actions of the opposing Congress in advancing conscription legislation:
“Yankee congress passed Conscript bill to call out the whole Militia force of the North 3,000,000 men. Let them come! God can help us whip 3 millions as well as one!”
The cost of war for civilian larders returns once more to the pages of Confederate war department clerk John B. Jones diary:
“Beef sold yesterday for $1.25 per pound; turkeys, $15. Corn-meal $6 per bushel, and all other articles at the same rates.”March 2, 1863
The United States Congress is busy wrapping up business, including confirming appointments of numerous generals in the Regular Army as well as in the volunteer service.March 3, 1863
The ever-expressive William T. Sherman, still in camp before Vicksburg, lauds the Union government’s implementation of a draft as “the first sensible move I have yet see,” but saves his usual venom for newspapers, favor-seeking generals and politicians:
“If Politicians want fame let them win it, if newspapers know best how to manouever & fight, why for godssake let them pitch in. There is fighting enough for them all.”
For seven hours Union naval vessels pummel Fort McAllister on the Georgia coast as operations continue in that vicinity.March 4, 1863
From Camp Gregg, in Virginia, North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender tells his wife, Fanny:
“Darling, did you think about yesterday being the anniversary of our marriage? Four years, how short they seem. . . . We are more violently in love by far than the sweethearts.”
Ned Guerrant observes an anniversary of another sort in his diary:
“Today Lincoln has been in office two years! O what years! What ruin he has wrought! Centuries will not repair it. Only half his time has expired. In the other half he may make Earth a Pandemonium.”March 5, 1863
Fighting wraps up at Thompson’s Station in Middle Tennessee with a haul of Union prisoners for Confederate troops under Earl Van Dorn and Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Dorsey Pender has time to write from camp and broaches a wide range of subjects, including the prospects of foreign intervention:
“I cannot help but think that Napoleon [III] means to interfere in this war, but my wife I have about made up my mind to a year or two more of it. If it comes sooner, so much the better. But we cannot well have such another year as the last. They may get more men, but they will never fight as they have.”March 7, 1863
Sherman offers his assessment of his fellow generals:
“[John] McClernand is an old politician who looks to self aggrandizement, and is not scrupulous of means. Grant is brave, honest, & true, but not a Genius. [James] McPherson is a fine soldier & Gentleman. [Frederick] Steele, [John] Logan & others are good Soldiers, but [Frank] Blair is a ‘disturbing Element,’ I wish he was in Congress or a Bar Room, any where but our Army.”March 8, 1863
In South Carolina, Union officer Alvin Coe Voris offers an evaluation of the effects of slavery on the individuals he has encountered:
“If God be just & visits retribution upon the wickedness of man commensurate with the aggravation of this affair, His terrible wrath must be visited upon the authors of the abominable crime of American slavery. Humanity revolts at the cruelties & degradation of the system.”
Ned Guerrant is in full form in his condemnation of Abraham Lincoln:
“Indications not so favorable for a speedy peace. Lincoln has made himself Dictator of the North. . . . Mighty consequences depend upon the results of impending struggles. The Spring campaign will soon open--& I hope soon close in the utter discomfiture of Lincoln’s hireling hordes. ‘Nero fiddled while Rome was burning.’ Lincoln tells anecdotes while the United States are crumbling to pieces.”
From his Winter Quarters in Virginia, Confederate John Dooley deplores the dual nature of the weather and his supplies:
“This morning a thunder storm suddenly gathers and breaks over our camp—rains nearly an hour. . . . Receive some of the hardest beans ever issued to a soldier which I put into a little cup and boil for three or four hours; we then try them with a little salt; but they are declared to only be par-boiled. Ned says that those kind of beans ought to be boiled at least twenty four hours.”
A small group of Southerners make their way through a light rain to Fairfax Court House, hoping to snag prisoners and create a sensation. Cutting telegraph wires and proceeding to the headquarters, the raiders will not find their initial quarry, Colonel Percy Wyndham, but another potential high-ranking guest awaits.March 9, 1863
Union General Edwin H. Stoughton is now a Confederate prisoner after a bold night-time raid conducted by the “Gray Ghost,” John Singleton Mosby. In addition to snagging the befuddled general, Mosby has begun to establish a reputation that will permeate the region, Virginia, and the Confederacy itself.March 10, 1863
President Lincoln issues a proclamation of amnesty for soldiers who have left the service without the benefit of official sanction. He promises that those who are absent without leave may return to their respective units on or before April 1 without penalty “except the forfeiture of pay and allowances during their absence; and all who do not return within the time above specified shall be arrested as deserters, and punished as the law provides.”
Diarist Emma Holmes is concerned that international developments will continue to work against Confederate interests:
“The insurrection in Poland [against Russian rule], which was at first considered a light affair, has proved to be a formidable rebellion which will engage the time and attention of all the great European powers—to our exclusion.”March 11, 1863
A Union advance in the direction of Vicksburg from the north runs into formidable Confederate defenses at Fort Pemberton. The presence of the earthwork, buttressed by cotton bales and cannon, thwarts this latest attempt to find a suitable route to take the river city.
War Clerk J.B. Jones laments the state of affairs in the Confederacy and the sense that war has brought out both the best and the worst in people:
“All the patriotism is in the army; out of it the demon avarice rages supreme. Every one seems mad with speculation; and the extortioners prey upon every victim that falls within their power. . . . We have at the same time, and in the same community, spectacles of the most exalted virtue and of the most degrading vice.”
From Fredericksburg, Milton Barrett writes his brother and sister to let them know how he is doing and what he expects to take place soon:
“we have had a bunence of bad weather. it snow all day yestday but it has all melted today and the sun a shining very perty. Tha is but very litle news a float now, every thing on our line is still a waiting a few fair days to put the roads in good order for a hard attack.
As the spring makes its approach we are thretin with dark clouds that is a risen in the west and south and north of turable storms that is a threatin our young republic and two months will bring a grate change over our land and if we are sucseful at the three points now threaten by the enemy our sucess is shore and wil bring a speady end of this wicket war so let us be of good cheer and pray for success.”March 12, 1863
Sherman communicates with Governor David Tod of Ohio: “Time has convinced all reasonable men, that war in theory and practice are two distinct things. Many an honest patriot, full of enthusiasm, zeal and thirst for Glory has in practice found himself unequal to the actual requirements of war. . . .
We are forced to invade—we must keep the War South, till they are not only ruined, exhausted, but humbled in pride and spirit.”March 13, 1863
Tragedy strikes in Richmond with an explosion in a munitions facility that leaves sixty-nine individuals, mostly young women, either dead or injured.
Confederate forces under Major General Daniel Harvey Hill close on Union defenders of New Bern and Fort Anderson in North Carolina as part of a wider operation designed to extract large amounts of resources from an area that had been out of the South’s reach since earlier in the war.
Ironically mirroring the sentiments many Confederates have voiced, William T. Sherman tells his wife:
“The New Conscript Law is the best act of our Government, and Mr. Lincoln can no longer complain of want of Power—he now is absolute Dictator, and if he don’t use the power some one will.”March 14, 1863
Admiral David Farragut slips past the Confederate batteries at Port Hudson. The accurate fire punishes the Union vessels, causing the loss of Mississippi when the craft runs aground and burns.
Cump Sherman admits to his brother John:
“We are no nearer taking Vicksburg now than we were three months ago.”March 15, 1863
War activity once more reaches the West Coast with the seizure of J.M. Chapman and a pro-Southern crew and cargo at San Francisco, California.March 16, 1863
Colonel Voris reviews his year in command:
“One year ago this day I assumed command of the 67th O.V. since which time I have had the labor, care and responsibility of its command. I assure you that however gratifying it may be to one’s ambition to be head of a Regt in the field, it nevertheless is an undertaking on many accounts not verry desirable. Still I would rather be commanding officer than subordinate if I am to remain in the service. While I get the blame for all that goes wrong, I am somewhat compensated by praise of what is well done. It is a peculiar privilege of the army to grumble, and all indulge in it from the small boy in the rear rank to the Major General in Chief, a great deal of which means nothing & therefore does no harm unless to the verry thin skinned individual who is always in danger. ”March 17, 1863
Brigadier General William W. Averell leads 2,100 Union cavalry across Kelly’s Ford, driving away or capturing a handful of Confederate pickets before running into approximately 800 men under Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee. In the course of the fighting, the young chief of Jeb Stuart’s horse artillery, John Pelham, perishes. The loss of “That Gallant Pelham” delivers a blow to Southern hearts and minds, as well as to Stuart’s cavalry.
Hospital Steward, Spencer Bonsall, of the 81st Pennsylvania Infantry observes:
“This is ‘Saint Patrick’s day in the morning.’ The Irish Brigade, General Thomas F. Meagher, have a great horse race today over hurdles, also a mule race. Last May, Friday the 30th, on the Chickahominy, they also had a race, and during the height of it, an important battle was going on within a few miles, and now again the deep roar of cannon is heard on our right. It has continued for a couple of hours, but is now slacking off. It is a rather singular coincidence, as this is the first time for several weeks that firing of any consequence has been heard.”
Confederate John Dooley contemplates the day from a different perspective:
“St. Patrick’s day and not a dhrop of comfort to take the chill off of one’s heart.”
From the Executive Mansion, President Lincoln addresses concerns expressed by Major General William S. Rosecrans. One of these involves conferring rank and Lincoln adroitly sidesteps the matter:March 18, 1863
“If the thing you sought had been exclusively ours, we would have given it cheerfully; but being the right of other men, we have a merely arbitrary power over it, the taking it from them and giving it to you, became a more delicate matter, and more deserving of consideration. Truth to speak, I do not appreciate this matter of rank on paper, as you officers do. The world will not forget that you fought the battle of ‘Stone River’ and it will never care a fig whether you rank Gen. Grant on paper, or he so, ranks you.”
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas recounts the engagement at Kelly’s Ford and notes the loss of John Pelham, “a very young and promising officer . . . killed by a random shot.”
President Lincoln is not above expressing himself on political matters with regard to another branch of the government, as he indicates to Representative Henry W. Davis:
“There will be, in the new House of Representatives, as there were in the old, some members opening opposing the war, some supporting it unconditionally, and some supporting it with ‘buts’ and ‘ifs’ and ‘ands.’ They will divide on the organization of the House—on the election of Speaker.
As you ask my opinion, I give it that the supporters of the war should send no man to congress who will not go into caucus with the unconditional supporters of the war, and abide the action of such caucus, and support in the House, the person therein nominated for Speaker. Let the friends of the government first save the government, and then administer it to their own liking.”March 20, 1863
New Englander Rufus King records the use of a Union scout or spy posing as an individual with limited mental capacity sent to obtain information on Confederate activities for his commander, Brigadier General Godfrey Weitzel:
“One of Gen. Weitzel’s ‘boys’ returned this afternoon from the enemy’s country, whither he had been in the guise of ‘poor white trash,’ to enlist in the Confederate service; but he was so very ‘poor’ (non compos mentis), that his patriotic desire to serve the Confederacy was treated with contempt; and he was advised to ‘apply to the Yankees, who needed just such men as himself.’ He deemed the advice good, and acted upon it with all the haste that discretion would allow. . . .”March 21, 1863
Josiah Gorgas revisits the horrific accident that had taken so many lives in the Richmond factory explosion, with information taken largely from the account of a victim who had survived for a few days:
“Only four were killed outright . . . [but] the number of dead will probably reach 50.
The accident was caused by the ignition of a friction primer . . . . The primer stuck on the varnishing board and she struck the board three times very hard on the table to drive out the primer. She says she was immediately blown up to the ceiling and on coming down was again blown up. Cartridges were being broken up temporarily in the same room, where many operators were sent temporarily on account of repairs in the shop they usually worked in. The deaths are due chiefly to the burning of their clothes.”
In the field near Fredericksburg, South Carolinian Tally Simpson tells his sister about the weather and the diversion it has offered the troops:
“This morning Earth is again mantled with a garment of spotless white. . . . Providence has again, by this natural occurrence, forced upon the several armies in the field an armistice of several days. . . . The boys are amusing themselves with fighting snow balls. One yell after another comes from different parts of the brigade, and all seem to be enjoying themselves finely.”March 22, 1863
The observant bureaucrat Jones cites reports from Northern newspapers that the Confederacy has employed black troops of its own in Virginia and responds in a manner that exposes the contradictions that exist concerning wartime slavery.
“This is utterly untrue. We have no armed slaves to fight for us, nor do we fear a servile insurrection.”
A Union garrison at Mount Sterling, Ky., experiences the unexpected discomfort of a raid and capture by Basil Duke’s horsemen as part of another penetration of the region by John Hunt Morgan.March 23, 1863
President Lincoln reaches out to Horatio Seymour, governor of New York, for the purpose of bettering the relationship between them:
“I, for the time being, am at the head of a nation which is in great peril; and you are at the head of the greatest State of that nation. As to maintaining the nation’s life, and integrity, I assume, and believe, there can be no difference of purpose between you and me. If we should differ as to the means, it is important that such differences should be as small as possible—that it should not be enhanced by unjust suspicions on one side or the other. In the performance of my duty, the co-operation of your State, as that of others, is needed—in fact, is indispensable.”
Josiah Gorgas notes Jefferson Davis’s obsession with activities in the Western Theater:
“I spent an hour with the President at his office yesterday. He is at present wholly devoted to the defence of the Mississippi, and thinks and talks of little else. I went to get some instructions as to sending ordnance West of the Miss. but he continually directed the conversation to the Miss.”March 24, 1863
Basil Duke continues to roam across Kentucky, bringing excitement and uncertainty to Union troops in the Bluegrass.March 25, 1863
Forrest joins the festivities of Confederate cavalry raids by hitting Union troops in Middle Tennessee at Brentwood and Franklin. His efforts net 529 Federal prisoners at Brentwood and another 230 nearer Franklin. In addition to causing havoc with rail lines and communications in the region, Forrest has the chance to demonstrate his prowess as a cavalry commander in such operations. He can attribute part of this success to the service of a young man and other scouts who have brought him vital information on an intelligence gathering mission. These efforts ensure that Forrest operates effectively in hostile territory: “To know where they aint—as to know where they are.”March 26, 1863
Lincoln to Andrew Johnson:
“The colored population is the great available and yet, unavailed of, force for restoring the Union. The bare sight of fifty thousand armed, and drilled black soldiers on the bank of the Mississippi, would end the rebellion at once.”
West Virginians vote for gradual emancipation of slaves.March 27, 1863
A day of fasting and prayer for Confederates.March 28, 1863
Although he usually references the besting of the rebels he and his comrades encounter, Rufus Kinsley notes an unsettling development in his diary from his posting in Louisiana:
“Our best gun boat, the Diana, taken by the rebels on the Tech, near Pattersonville, after a sharp engagement, in which her Capt. and ten men were killed, some 25 wounded, and 98 taken prisoners. Two Cos. of rebel Cavalry were entirely destroyed by the Diana before her surrender.”
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas strikes a busy cord with his journal entry for the day: “Fast day was observed yesterday, by going to church; but in my department work was carried on—laborare est orare [to work is to pray]. It will not do to omit anything now. We must both work and pray.”March 29, 1863
Ulysses Grant wants John McClernand to move along the west side of the Mississippi River to a point below Vicksburg to continue to find a fruitful avenue of approach to the Confederate fortress city and simultaneously keep a politically-motivated subordinate busy.March 30, 1863
Actions in Kentucky, Indian Territory and the coast of North Carolina mark the day.March 31, 1863
Edward Guerrant once more unleashes an eloquent pathos as hopes for returning to his native Kentucky, like the month, disappear:
“Last day of March 1863. Like a lamb it came into the great arena of Time—Like a Lion it goes out. Roaring, tearing human hopes & ties ruthlessly asunder, & shaking despair, & dread with snow from his wintry mane.”
April 1863April 1, 1863
President Abraham Lincoln applauds Major General David Hunter for the news he has heard of that general’s African-American troops:
“I see the enemy are driving at them fiercely, as is to be expected. It is important to the enemy that such a force shall not take shape, and grow, and thrive, in the South; and in precisely the same proportion, it is important to us that it shall.”
In Mobile, Alabama, reports indicate that placards reading “Bread or Peace” have appeared in the streets. Confederate government official Robert Garlick Hill Kean observes:
“The [War} Department has been energetic only in the very doubtful policy of impressments.”April 2, 1863
Angry demonstrations rock the streets and storefronts of the Confederate capital as a bread riot breaks out in Richmond. President Jefferson Davis, Governor John Letcher and Mayor Mayo appeal to the crowd to end the affair and disperse. Many of the individuals who gather initially are the wives of Tredegar Iron Works employees hard-pressed by rising prices. But as the protest gathers steam, others join and the situation quickly grows out of control with looting including nonperishable goods as well as foodstuffs. A show of force finally quells the disturbances. City leaders will lay the responsibility for the outburst on “outsiders.”April 3, 1863
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas ascribes his own motives and the government’s response to the riots of the previous day:
“Yesterday a crowd of women assembled on the public square and marching thence down Main sacked several shoe, grocery and other stores. Their pretence was bread; but their motive really was license. Few of them have really felt want. The President went down amongst them and said a few words to them telling them that the course they were pursuing was the one most likely to bring scarcity of food on the city. . . . It was a real women’s riot, but as yet there is really little cause for one—there is scarcity, but little want.”
From his post near Vicksburg, William T. Sherman tells his brother, John:
“People must learn that war is a question of physical force and Carnage. . . . The Justice of the Cause has nothing to do with it—It is a question of force.”
“My own opinion is we should fight on all occasions even if we get worsted—we can stand it longest.”
From his post in Bermuda, U.S. consul Charles M. Allen informs Secretary of State William Seward of Confederate activity. “The islands here are filled with Southerners. They seem to have plenty of money and have purchased largely from the merchants here.”April 4, 1863
Ever the innovative and adaptive person himself, President Lincoln expresses his idea for a “Steam-ram” that can be used to protect Northern harbors. Built for “speed and strength” by sacrificing “nearly all capacity for carrying,” Lincoln understands that his vessel will be limited in range, but insists “her business would be to guard a particular harbor, as a Bull-dog guards his master’s door.”April 5, 1863
Irby Scott spends a portion of his day in camp near Fredericksburg, Va., writing to his father in Georgia:
“We had a perfect snow storm last night and part of today. It has snowed about eight inches deep. We had a small snow on last Monday while I was on picket. I was in sight of the yanks all the time. Only the river between us which is some one hundred to one hundred and fifty yards wide. On one day they had up three balloons. One of them was not more than a mile and half from us. I had a good view of it. I could see the basket, the rope to which it was attached, the telegraph wire and also the men on the ground to manage it.. . . Some of the boys wanted to see the basket fall with the man in it. Others wanted the rope to break and the wind to blow it over. You can see them up almost any clear day.”April 6, 1863
President Lincoln signifies a shift in thinking concerning strategy by noting:
“our prime object is the enemies’ army in front of us, and is not with, or about, Richmond—at all, unless it be incidental to the main object.”April 7, 1863
Flag Officer Samuel Du Pont leads a fleet of Union ironclads into Charleston Harbor, hoping to overawe the defenders, particularly of the symbolic Fort Sumter, with a display of modern naval technology and firepower. Each of the vessels sustains damaging hits as Southern tubes return the fire.April 8, 1863
USS Keokuk sinks after enduring after absorbing some ninety rounds of Confederate artillery fire in the previous day’s action.April 9, 1863
Confederate war clerk John B. Jones and his family have learned to improvise as well as economize in the war:
“My wife has obviated one of the difficulties of the blockade, by a substitute for coffee, which I like very well. It is simply corn meal, toasted like coffee, and served in the same manner. It costs five or six cents per pound—coffee, $2.50.”
From the South Carolina coast, Union officer Alvin Coe Voris writes his wife:
“The poor secesh are evidently afraid of the cowardly Yankees, for they have left many pleasant homes without a single tenant to guard them from the ravages of time or the advent of new occupants, the barbarians of the North. What foolish people. We would not hurt them if they only behaved themselves decently. The original inhabitants along the coast wherever the army has been so far as I have learned have abandoned their homes & fled to places within the enemy lines”April 10, 1863
President Jefferson Davis expresses his support for calls from the Confederate Congress that emphasize growing foodstuffs in preference to cotton and tobacco:
“Alone, unaided, we have met and overthrown the most formidable combination of naval and military armaments that the lust of conquest ever gathered for the subjugation of a free people.”
In the midst of this continuing conflict, he urges Southern farmers: “Let fields be devoted exclusively to the production of corn, oats, beans, peas, potatoes, and other food for man and beast; let corn be sown broadcast for fodder. . . and let all your efforts be directed to the prompt supply of these articles in the districts where our armies are operating.”
Confederate cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest suffers a grievous personal loss when his artillery chief, Captain Samuel Freeman, falls into the hands of Union forces north of Spring Hill, Tennessee and then perishes when his captors shoot him rather than take the risk that he may be liberated when his compatriots launch counterattacks on the Federals before they can ride away with their prisoner.April 11, 1863
Confederate forces under General Longstreet move toward Suffolk, Va. They operate under orders from several sources and in support of different missions that do not coincide, but “Pete” is determined to make the most of his independent command opportunity.
The blockade-runner, Stonewall Jackson, fails to elude pursuers near Charleston.April 12, 1863
R.G.H. Kean blasts General Joe Johnston for sending another, as he terms it, sharp captious letter” to the war department:
“In substance he is clearly right; yet the letter in manner and spirit is of a piece with his jejune and ice tempered character of correspondence. He treats the Department as an enemy with whom he holds no communication which he can avoid and against which he only complains and finds fault. He is a very little man, has achieved nothing, full of himself, above all other things, eaten up with a morbid jealousy of Lee and of all his superiors in position, rank, or glory. I apprehend the gravest disasters from his command in the western department. Time will show.”
A very sour and dejected Alvin Voris informs his wife of the failure of the Union navy to capture Charleston:
“This magnificent naval expedition of the iron clads was to have blown Charleston out of the geographies. The expedition has gone up—gone off—gone to the D---l with flying colors. The iron clads are a failure. . . .
For almost three months have we been waiting for the perfecting of this naval armament that was to strike an irresistible blow upon this center of rebeldom.”April 13, 1863
Diarist Emma Holmes records the news from Charleston that instead of continuing to engage the Confederate defenders, the Union fleet has essentially drawn off:
“A week before the city was attacked, the Yankees published its capture at the North, of course causing much rejoicing though it was soon found to be false. But they declared they would spend the anniversary of the Battle of Fort Sumter in the city.”
A frustrated Ambrose Burnside orders deportation for those persons found in his Department of the Ohio with Southern sympathies, while insisting that anyone who takes an active role in aiding and abetting the Confederate cause will face death.April 14, 1863
A Union cavalry force captures William Henry King and several of his sick comrades in Louisiana.
Ned Guerrant is in Eastern Kentucky, facing perils from unseen Unionists:
“We are now in Harlan County—notorious in our partizan history as the hotbed of Home guards & bushwhackers—fired on us again this evening. No one knows what moment swift-winged death may dart from some thick jungle that lines the road—or craggy rock that overhangs it—& bear him off to judgment.”
Confederate batteries near the Norfleet House outside Suffolk, Va., pummel the light Union vessels patrolling the Nansemond River.April 15, 1863
The captured William King notes:
“We are getting along pretty well. The Yankees treat us much more kindly than we expected. . . .
The Yankees are taking every mule, horse & cart they can find. They kill goats, pigs & beeves without any attempt to conceal the act. The owner of the premises on which we are staying has taken the oath of allegiance, yet the Yankees have taken all of his horses & mules, & are killing his goats, pigs & yearlings to subsist themselves & us upon. Not an envious protection of property.”
In South Carolina, Alvin Voris’s anger has not subsided:
“I can see Charleston, but what good does that do? Many an army could say, ‘Came—Saw—Skedaddle.’ Frequently this is only one step between victory and a fizzle.”
CSS Alabama is active off the coast of Brazil, harassing Union merchant shipping.April 16, 1863
Acting Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter runs his fleet past the guns of Vicksburg in order to reach a point below the city from which it can support a crossing of the river by troops under Ulysses Grant. Despite fires set to illuminate the waters and the presence of heavy guns, the Confederates can only succeed in sinking only the transport Henry Clay.April 17, 1863
Mounted raiders on both sides are in the saddle. Union colonel Benjamin H. Grierson, a one-time music teacher who has no particular love for horses after being kicked in the head by one as a child, launches a raid with 1,700 troopers into Mississippi for the purpose of keeping Confederate eyes away from Grant’s operations near Vicksburg. Blue-coats in Colonel Abel D. Streight’s “mule brigade” aim for Alabama, while Rebel riders under Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke set out for Missouri.
North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender contemplates the potential for military action in the coming days, telling his wife:
“You say you do not want me to go into Md. Honey, I feel nothing [is] left us but to go.” “This is a very different Army from the one we marched into Md. last year, and they have not as good a one to meet us.”
General Sherman explains to his wife the nature of the war as he wishes it to be conducted with regard to African Americans:
“I would prefer to have this [be] a white mans war, & provide for the negro after Storm has passed, but we are in a Revolution, and I must pretend not to judge.”
From his camp at Secessionville, South Carolinian J.A. Tillman reports that he has seen evidence of the engagement at Charleston from a distance, although he could make out little more than the sounds of battle “and see the curling smoke of the shells as they burst above the walls of proud ole Sumter.” He concludes that there will likely be no further attempt on Charleston in this manner. “This fight will dissipate all terror of ironclads in future and will bring about peace at an early day, I hope.”April 18, 1863
Grierson continues his raid, encountering only minor resistance.
C.M. Allen reports the arrival of the Confederate blockade-runner Robert E. Lee out of Wilmington, North Carolina, with a cargo of “600 bales of cotton, turpentine, tobacco & rosin.” In addition to these items, five individuals who have sought assistance in locating passage to the North. “The men sent to New York were free people of color who shipped in the south to escape being compelled to work on the fortifications, and did not wish to return. The Contrabands stowed themselves away till after they had passed the blockade.”April 19, 1863
A bold action of combined arms in the Nansemond River near Suffolk, Va., enables a Union force to snag a Confederate battery at Hill’s Point or Fort Huger. Quick thinking by Captain Hazard Stevens prevents disaster as a vessel laden with troops threatens to cross beneath the Southern guns. Jumping into the water, Stevens leads an attacking party into the rear of the Confederate works and compels the surrender of the defenders.
Dorsey Pender continues his discussion with his wife about Lee’s army once more moving across the Potomac into Maryland:
“I hope we will pass through it into Penn. . . . Our people have suffered from the depradations of the Yankees, but if we ever get into their country they will find out what it is to have an invading army amongst them. . . . They have gone systematically to work to starve us out and destroy all we have, to make the country a desert. I say let us play at the same game if we get the chance. God bless you my own dear wife.”April 20, 1863
President Lincoln signs a proclamation that confirms the admission of West Virginia as a state of the United States, with the act of Congress establishing the same to “take effect and be in force, from and after sixty days from the date hereof.”
Writing from the Citadel in Charleston, young John Crawford Anderson urges his father to commit some of the family’s cotton to running the blockade, noting the potential profits to be had by the risky enterprise.April 21, 1863
President Jefferson Davis responds to requests from the Confederate Congress for information relating to the matter of liability regarding “the value of slaves impressed by its authority and escaping to the enemy while so impressed, and whether the owners of such slaves have been paid.” Davis suggests that such a matter is not to be determined by himself, but by the Congress.
Confederate brigadier general William E. “Grumble” Jones undertakes a raid against the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and its rolling stock in West Virginia.
In Bermuda, Consul Allen is anxious to keep his superiors informed of blockade-running activities. “The steamer Robert E. Lee will leave here for Wilmington in about 8 days with a cargo mostly of arms and ammunition.”April 22, 1863
In the midst of a bloody and protracted conflict, Abraham Lincoln works to settle a domestic matter, by interceding on behalf of his wife to Senator Charles Sumner:
“Mrs. L is embarrassed a little. She would be pleased to have your company again this evening, at the Opera, but she fears she may be taxing you. I have undertaken to clear up the little difficulty. If, for any reason, it will tax you, decline, without any hesitation; but if it will not, consider yourself already invited, and drop me a note.”
There is no record of a written response from Sumner.
On the Mississippi, Union vessels pass once more before the guns of Vicksburg to bring U.S. Grant badly needed supplies. One transport and half a dozen barges succumb to the fire, but the remainder reach their destination.April 23, 1863
Although Union efforts have garnered successes, several Confederate blockade-runners slip into Wilmington, North Carolina.April 24, 1863
Benjamin Grierson hits the Southern Railroad of Mississippi at Newton Station, wrecking track and destroying train cars loaded with supplies.
The Confederate Congress turns to a “tax-in-kind” to generate support for the war effort by securing one tenth of resources being produced.
The USS De Soto is particularly successful in snaring Southern blockade-runners in the Gulf of Mexico.April 25, 1863
Emma Holmes notes the establishment of official emblems for the Confederacy:
“Congress has at last settled upon our National Seal & Flag, so many objections having been raised to the ‘Stars and Bars’ as too nearly resembling the Yankee emblem of cruelty & oppression. . . . Our flag consists of three equal bars, of blue between white, indicative of faith and purity, while the union occupying two-thirds of the whole, consists of the battle flag, the cross studded with stars, under which so many of our great victories have been won. I think it is beautiful as well as appropriate and elegantly chaste and simple.”
“Certified Practical Meteorologist & Expert in Computing the Changes of the Weather,” Francis L. Capen, offers to provide a powerful service to the Union war effort. Promising that, “Thousands of lives & millions of dollars may be saved by the application of Science to War. . . [Capen] will guarantee to furnish Meteorological information that will save many a serious sacrifice.”
Major General Dabney Maury assumes command of the troublesome Confederate Department of East Tennessee.April 26, 1863
John Marmaduke attacks Cape Girardeau, MoApril 28, 1863
Abraham Lincoln is not particularly impressed with the promise of meteorological assistance from Francis Capen:
“It seems to me Mr. Capen knows nothing about the weather, in advance. He told me three days ago that it would not rain again till the 30th of April or 1st of May. It is raining now & has been for ten hours. I can not spare any more time to Mr. Capen.”April 29, 1863
Joe Hooker pushes across the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s and U.S. Fords in an effort to threaten Robert E. Lee’s left flank and communications.
Early in the morning, Admiral Porter unleashes fire from a fleet of seven ironclads against defenses manned by Brigadier General John S. Bowen at Grand Gulf on the Mississippi. A protracted engagement convinces Grant that he cannot cross the river at this point and he opts for Bruinsburg Landing instead. The Confederate success has blunted, but failed to halt the movement of the Union ground troops.
William T. Sherman’s contribution to Grant’s larger strategic maneuver is to engage the Confederates north of Vicksburg in the vicinity of Snyder’s Bluff.April 30, 1863
Hooker’s command reaches Chancellorsville. In a buoyant mood, he predicts that his actions will require Lee to fight or retreat.
Abel Streight is doing his best to prevent Bedford Forrest from stopping him from reaching Rome, Georgia and beyond, by laying ambushes and fighting when necessary while pushing forward his command relentlessly.
President Davis recommends the appropriation of monies for laying “a submarine telegraph cable at Charleston, S.C.”
April ends with Confederate generals John Pemberton, Carter Stevenson and Louis Hebert convinced they have thwarted another series of Federal thrusts at Vicksburg from north of the city. The Snyder’s Bluff defenders have done their work well in the latest venture, discomfiting the Tyler, while suffering little more than superficial damage of their own. South of the city, in what looks from their perspective at most like a secondary prong of this Union effort, and more likely a feint to divert Southern attention, Ulysses Grant has crossed the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg unopposed. Grant claims to have achieved “the one object” he has sought by all of his previous maneuvering and canal digging in an attempt to circumvent the bastion’s batteries while positioning his forces to threaten it. Time will tell.
May 1863May 1, 1863
“Fighting Joe” Hooker has placed the powerful Army of the Potomac’s 70,000 troops on the road to Richmond, requiring Robert E. Lee to act swiftly to parry the movement with less than 50,000 soldiers while he recalls his veterans under James Longstreet back from the operation around Suffolk. Jubal Early has to remain at Fredericksburg with a scant 10,000 men, where John Sedgwick holds four times that number. By afternoon, the aggressive Hooker gives way to his cautious side as he pulls back to a little intersection in the wilderness area surrounding the Chancellor residence. Lee must exercise caution, too, because of the enormous disparity of the forces in this sector. After dark, the Confederate commander meets with his trusted subordinate, Stonewall Jackson, to consider the latest intelligence and weigh their options. The plan that emerges calls for a surprise flanking movement that is as risky as it is bold.
Longstreet remains engaged in southeastern Virginia, hurriedly reassembling the efforts he has undertaken to secure food and fodder from the region.
On the Mississippi River front, Grant consolidates his foothold across the great river from the west, while John McClernand moves toward Port Gibson. Major General John S. Bowen moves a blocking force to greet him and gives ground stubbornly. But, his small force cannot hold Port Gibson or stem the tide of the Union advance on Mississippi soil.
Grierson’s and Streight’s raiders continue to make progress, although the former faces less opposition than the latter, who still works diligently to fend off the relentless pursuit of Nathan Bedford Forrest.
John Marmaduke’s raid in the Trans-Mississippi is reaching its conclusion at Chalk Bluff.
President Lincoln responds to calls for support from Governor Andrew Curtin of Pennsylvania:
“The worst thing the enemy could do for himself would be to weaken himself before Hooker, & therefore it is safe to believe he is not doing it; and the best thing he could do for himself, would be to get us so scared as to bring part of Hooker’s force away, and that is just what he is trying to do.”
In Richmond, the Confederate Congress is busy on as its session winds down, attending to matters as diverse as naval affairs and diplomatic efforts to the adoption of a new flag.
Lieutenant Colonel Emerson Opdycke of the 41st Ohio worries about the state of his command but seems content to let his wife assume the role of managing the family finances in his absence:
“I desire you to take care of our finances at home, without any interference on my part, who knows but you may yet become a female Rothschild!”May 2, 1863
The situation at Chancellorsville takes a dramatic turn as Jackson effects his flanking movement. Occasionally seen, but not understood, the shift of the Confederate forces convinces some of the Federals that Lee may, in fact, be retreating in the face of a superior opponent. By late evening it will be clear that such supposition was wrong as Jackson’s men emerge from the woods to the west to strike Oliver O. Howard’s Eleventh Corps as it attends cook fires and evening preparations. The blow drives the Union troops back, but the lateness of the hour and the nature of combat itself conspire to limit the amount of damage Jackson can do.
The worst blow for the Confederate States of America comes when Jackson leaves the lines to reconnoiter and attempts to re-enter at a different point. Edgy troops, anticipating that only Federals occupy the ground to their front, fire on the party, striking Stonewall. The damaged limb cannot be saved and, at best, the stout warrior will be in for a long and difficult recovery.
In Richmond, Confederate bureaucrat John B. Jones notes:
“The awful hour, when thousands of human lives are to be sacrificed in the attempt to wrest this city from the Confederate states, has come again. Now parents, wives, sisters, brothers, and little children, both in the North and in the South, hold their breath in painful expectation.”
William T. Sherman writes his wife of the supporting actions he is taking to assist Grant in moving against Vicksburg:
“As I wrote you on Wednesday I went up Yazoo [River] with 2 iron clad boats, four or five mosquitos or small stern wheel Gunboats and ten transports carrying a pair of Blair’s Division for the purpose of making a simulated attack on Haines Bluff to divert attention from Grants movements on Grand Gulf. The first night we spent at our old Battle ground of Chickasaw Bayou and next morning moved up in Sight of the Batteries on Drumgoulds Hill. We battered away all morning and the enemy gave us back as much as we sent.”
At Baton Rouge, Grierson’s riders have reached their destination after a long and demanding operation that has disrupted Confederate rail and telegraph lines, destroyed military property and produced greater casualties for the South than for the raiders themselves.
In northern Alabama, Forrest has continued to follow Abel Streight, securing the assistance of a young woman to find a ford over the river at Gadsden when the bluecoats burned the bridge after they had crossed. Emma Sansom becomes a heroine for her actions.May 3, 1863
“The road to Vicksburg is open,” Ulysses Grant informs W.T. Sherman.
Lee and Hooker continue to grapple with each other in Virginia, with the celebrated cavalryman Jeb Stuart in charge of Jackson’s command, with Stonewall down, and the subsequent wounding of A.P. Hill. A key piece of terrain, Hazel Grove, comes under Confederate control and enables the Southern tubes to obtain an important natural firing platform from which to work. Joseph Hooker experiences the effects personally, knocked temporarily out of commission as a shell strikes a column on the porch of the Chancellor home.
With the larger armies engaged at Chancellorsville, Major General John Sedgwick sends his troops against Major General Jubal Early’s Confederate defenders at Fredericksburg. Once the scene of a triumphant effort by Lee’s army, Early cannot hold the blue tide back from Marye’s Heights on this occasion. Sedgwick moves on toward Chancellorsville, but a blocking force of Southern troops await them in the vicinity of Salem Church.
In Northern Alabama, Abel Streight’s raid comes to an inglorious end as Nathan Bedford Forrest bluffs the larger, but exhausted Union command into surrendering. Streight’s 1,466 men will reach Rome, Georgia, but as prisoners of Forrest’s roughly 600 cavalrymen.
Confederates pull back from their formidable, but now useless positions, at Grand Gulf. Grant’s inland movement has rendered the location untenable.May 4, 1863
Fighting continues at Chancellorsville, but Hooker cannot seem to regain the aggressive spirit he had once known and Sedgwick quickly finds himself on the defensive as the Confederates recover and react to his movements. The battle winds down, but the heavy fighting over the course of the campaign has produced 17,287 casualties for the North and 12,764 for the South. The tally of Union dead stands at 1,606, with 9,762 wounded, and 5,919 missing or captured, to the Confederate totals of 1,665 killed, 9,081 wounded, and 2,018 missing or captured. Most seriously among their losses is the seriously wounded Jackson.
Union officials will be better served by focusing their concerns on the Confederates in Virginia, if as War Clerk John B. Jones believes: “Lee is making herculean efforts for an ‘on to Washington,’ while the enemy think he merely designs a defense of Richmond. Troops are on the move, all the way from Florida to Gordonsville [Va.]”May 5, 1863
Clement Vallandigham, leader of Democrats in Ohio who have been vociferous in their condemnation of the war and the policies of the Lincoln administration, finds himself under arrest in Dayton. The Peace Democrats or Copperheads have run afoul of Federal authorities, but President Lincoln understands that detaining the popular leader will only enhance his reputation among Republican critics.May 6, 1863
As Sherman moves through the region, he rails at the actions of men attached to his command:
“Along Lake St. Joseph where we now are the Planters never dreamed of our Coming. They had planted vast fields of corn & vegetables, and we find old corn, and some beef cattle. . . We have found some magnificent plantations most horribly plundered. . . . It is done of course by the cursed stragglers who wont fight, but hang behind and disgrace our Cause & Country. . . .
Of course devastation marked the whole path of the army, and I know all the principal officers detest the infamous practice as much as I do. Of course I expect & do take corn, bacon, horses, mules and everything to support an army, and dont object much to the using [of] fences for firewood, but this universal burning and wanton destruction of private property is not justifiable in war.”
In Virginia, Robert E. Lee wants to strike at Joseph Hooker once more, but the Army of the Potomac is gone. The Confederate chieftain displays an uncharacteristically public example of exasperation, but there is nothing more to be done for the moment. A.P. Hill will replace the ailing Jackson as he tries to recover at Guiney’s Station.May 7, 1863
Confederate general William Dorsey Pender informs his wife of his recent involvement in the fighting at Chancellorsville:
“We had the most terrible battle of the war, not because they fought better but because they had such terrible odds and held such a strong position and so well fortified. . . . If not before, I won promotion last Sunday and if it can be done I think I shall get it. Our N.C. troops behaved most nobly. . . . I was hit the next day while standing behind entrenchments in a miserable skirmish, but it was only a very slight bruise by a spent ball which killed a fine young officer standing in front of me. It is on the right arm near the shoulder.”
Hard campaigning has left South Carolinian Tally Simpson worn, but confident from the recent battle, as he explains in a letter to his father from camp near Fredericksburg:
“Such a time I have never seen before. I am as dirty as a hog. I have lost all my clothes and have none to put on till these are washed. My shoes are out, and my feet are so sore that I can scarcely. . . . Genl Lee says his infantry can never be whipped.
Write me soon and give me your opinion of the victory etc.”
Dr. George B. Peters rides up to Earl Van Dorn’s headquarters in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and strides up to the general’s office on the second floor, pulls out a pistol and fires. The colorful major general has apparently acquainted himself too intimately with the doctor’s wife, Jessie, and has now paid the ultimate price for his alleged dalliance.May 8, 1863
War Clerk John B. Jones exults at the news from the battlefield in Virginia:
“Thus ends the career of Gen. Hooker, who, a week ago, was at the head of an army of 150,000 men, perfect in drill, discipline, and all muniments of war. He came a confident invader against Gen. Lee at the head of 65,000 ‘butternuts,’ as our honest poor-clad defenders were called, and we see the result!”
President Lincoln informs Hooker of developments in the West:
“The news is here, of the capture, by our forces of Grand Gulf—a large & very important thing.”May 9, 1863
Pender once more writes home to tell his wife the latest developments as he sees them. The news is not promising for the vaunted Stonewall Jackson as he holds on grimly after sustaining his Chancellorsville wound:
“I hear that Gen’l Jackson is thought to be in a very serious condition. . . . He will be a great loss to the country and it is devoutly to be hoped that he may be spared to the country.”
In the West, a woefully sick Confederate prisoner William King receives a parole:
“After searching us pretty minutely, & taking blankets & other valuables, we are marched to the boat, & as soon as all get on board, the boat puts off at a rapid rate up the river.”
With regard to the growing threat of Grant in Mississippi, Joseph Johnston steps in to provide an answer.May 10, 1863
It is fitting that the Old Testament warrior, Stonewall Jackson reaches the end of his earthly journey on this Sabbath day. Pneumonia has done what bullets alone had not accomplished and Jackson is now at rest.
John B. Jones records an exchange of dialog between a Richmond resident and one of the Union prisoners from Chancellorsville making his way to a prison facility in the city:
“A young officer asked one of the spectators if the ‘Libby’ [Prison] was the best house in the city to put up at. He was answered that it was the best he would find.
One of our soldiers taken at Arkansas Post, just exchanged, walked along with the column, and kept repeating these words: ‘Now you know how we felt when you marched us through your cities.’”
Also in the Confederate capital, Robert G.H. Kean cites the death of General Van Dorn with an explanation much closer to the truth than other rumors:
“The cause is said to be the seduction of Dr. Peters’s wife by Van Dorn who has a reputation of being a horrible rake.”May 11, 1863
Diarist R.G.H. Kean records the sense of loss Jackson’s death has generated:
“No name in the states was so electrical to troops as his, none so terrible to the enemy, so inspiriting to his own. He has left a name second to none these times have evoked.”
A frustrated Alvin Voris describes the circumstances that prevail on the coast of South Carolina:
“I do not at present anticipate trouble here. The policy is not to rush matters. . . . I am conducting a war upon the strictest rules of strategy, ie., I don’t mean to run any risks. I Don’t mean anybody shall get hurt. I shall have lots of Grand Reviews, dig trenches, throw up rifle pits, make forts, mount them with Quaker guns & blow in the papers.”
William King arrives at Port Hudson, which is under fire by Union forces.
“Find the hospital in a deep hollow at the upper end of town, supposed to be mainly out of danger of the enemy’s shells, though it is known not to be entirely safe as some shells have been thrown into the immediate vicinity.”May 12, 1863
Troops clash at Raymond, Mississippi, as Ulysses Grant continues his push against Vicksburg and its defenders.
A somber mood prevails in the Confederate capital as Stonewall Jackson’s remains receive their final salutes:
“The funeral was very solemn and imposing, because the mourning was sincere and heartfelt. There was no vain ostentation. The pall bearers were generals. The President followed near the hearse in a carriage, looking thin and frail in health. . . . The war-horse was led by the general’s servant, and flags and black feathers abounded.”May 13, 1863
The Mississippi capital of Jackson is in the crosshairs of Grant’s command. Joseph Johnston scrambles to secure reinforcements, but the Union pressure mounts as Johnston despairs of being able to provide the garrison of the river city with any meaningful relief.May 14, 1863
Grant reaches Jackson, forcing Johnston to evacuate his defenses and relinquish ample military stores gathered there to prevent their capture by hostile troops.May 15, 1863
In Mississippi, a Tennessee Confederate, by way of Pennsylvania, has joined comrades attempting to confront Grant’s forces. On the anniversary of his wedding, Flavel Barber claims to still have “unbounded confidence in General Johnston,” but recognizes that the years of war have wrought changes in his life, as well as in the prospects of the Confederacy:
“Two years ago tonight I was married. What changes have taken place since then. Then I anticipated a lifetime of unalloyed happiness but one year ago found me within the walls of a prison and the present anniversary finds me in the ranks of a retreating army, defeated and driven back before an overwhelming force. God grant that the next one may find me in peace enjoying the society of her whom I love best of all on earth.”May 16, 1863
Heavy fighting occurs on the road network that crosses in the vicinity of Champion Hill. Union losses among the 29,000 combatants amount to 410 killed, 1,844 wounded and 187 missing. The less numerous Confederates suffer more heavily, with 381 killed, 1,800 wounded and 1,670 missing or captured.
In Virginia, Georgian Irby Scott tells his father,
“I do dread the marching and fighting this summer but it will do no good to be dreading for there is no other way but to go right ahead.”May 17, 1863
Union forces dash Confederate hopes that the Big Black River will prove an impediment to the Union advance in Mississippi toward Vicksburg when troops crack the Southern lines meant to resist them and send the grayclad defenders scurrying. The Federal losses amount to 39 killed, 237 wounded, and 3 missing, while the Confederates endure some 1,700 in captured alone.May 18, 1863
Grant is now at the doorstep of Vicksburg and John Pemberton has chosen to remain and wait for relief from Joe Johnston before the city falls.
On the South Carolina coast, Alvin Voris has come under attack:
“The sand flies have been remarkably preserving this evening in their investigation of the properties of human blood. They are the real phlebotomist against whose attack there is no escaping. They bite as wickedly as fleas, and are as numerous as the frogs of Egypt. I don’t know what the infernal scamps were made for, nor do I care to know if to know is to experience the insinuation of their blood thirsty bills.”May 19, 1863
Grant launches an assault on the Vicksburg entrenchments in hopes of a quick victory and under the assumption that the recent reverses have so damaged Confederate morale that the defense of the city will collapse. Heavy fighting ensues around the Stockade Redan, but Sherman finds the going difficult and calls the advance off after suffering significant casualties.
Sherman is nearby and writes Ellen from Walnut Hills north of Vicksburg:
“We made a full circuit, entered Jackson first, destroyed an immense quantity of Railroad & Confederate property, and then pushed for this Point which secures the Yazoo & leaves [us] to take Vicksburg.”May 21, 1863
The siege of Port Hudson begins.
Having secured permission to leave the hospital, a weakened William King has made it out of Port Hudson in timely fashion:
"The bombardment at Port Hudson last night was very heavy; it jarred the sash of my window. The distance by the road is 12 miles.”May 22, 1863
Ulysses Grant tries once more to punch his way into Vicksburg. The assault takes on a wider scope than the one two days earlier, but despite some success at the Railroad Redoubt, ends as the previous one had done. Union losses for the effort amount to 502 killed, 2,550 wounded and 147 missing, while those for the Confederates stand at under 550 in total. Grant has finished with this direct approach and resorts to the implementation of siege warfare to accomplish his mission of reducing Vicksburg’s defenses.May 23, 1863
President Davis remains hopeful that Johnston will be able to do something to save Vicksburg.May 24, 1863
From Franklin, Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke assesses the state of the nation in the midst of war:
“What mighty interests and destinies are being tossed backwards and forwards over this Nation, as if it were but a game of ball. So little pure patriotism, all interest and plunder. One almost wishes for supreme power for a few months; but that would not cure the Nation. We are a nation of . . . speculators, and nothing but blood will purify us.”
John M. Schofield is tapped to replace Samuel R. Curtis in command of the Department of Missouri after the latter has become embroiled in internal disputes that have limited his effectiveness.May 25, 1863
General Sherman has the opportunity for reflection as he settles in at Vicksburg for an extended stay:
“The Forts are well built to command the Roads, and the hills and valleys are so abrupt and covered with fallen trees, standing trunks and Canebrake that we are in a measure confined to the Roads [for assaults]. We made two distinct assaults all along the Line, but the heads of Columns are swept away as Chaff thrown from the hand on a windy day. We are now hard at work with roads and trenches, taking all possible advantage of the Shape of the ground.
[O]ur pickets are up so close that they can hardly show their heads without drawing hundreds of shots. In like manner we can hardly show a hand without the whirr of a minnie Ball. Our artillery is all well placed and must do havoc in the Town. We have over a hundred Cannon which pour a constant fire over their parapets, the Balls going right towards their court house & depot.”
Clement Vallandigham is now a Confederate problem, albeit temporarily. President Lincoln wants to avoid a backlash from the detention of the Democratic gadfly by banishing him to the Confederacy.May 26, 1863
Banks remains busy around Port Hudson, tightening his siege of that place, while other Federal forces move north of Vicksburg to clear the region of Confederate remnants there.
A gold strike in what will one day be called Virginia City in Montana, promises to enhance the resources available to the Union war effort and economy.May 27, 1863
Two individuals are uppermost in Abraham Lincoln’s mind regarding the progress of the war in the West, prompting him to inquire of William Rosecrans:
“Have you heard any thing from Grant? Where is Forrest’s Headquarters?”
The Port Hudson defenders experience direct assault in a disjointed offensive that cost the Union attackers 293 men killed, 1,545 wounded and 157 missing. The Confederate defenders set their total losses at 235. One of the participants in the attack recalled:
“The rebels availed themselves of thickets, trees, fallen timber, ridges and ravines and also rifle-pits and breastworks of earth and logs constructed at convenient points, and being concealed and protected themselves galled us with a most destructive rifle fire. . . . From favorable positions their light artillery fired upon us [with] grape shell and canister.”
Off Vicksburg, efforts to reduce Confederate defenses on Sherman’s sector result in the loss of the Cincinnati. The veteran of hard service and fighting on the Yazoo River keeps its flag flying defiantly, while crewmembers, some of whom will receive the Medal of Honor for their actions help wounded comrades to safety.
On the Chattahoochee River in Georgia, the Confederate’s namesake vessel erupts in an accidental explosion that costs the lives of eighteen men.May 28, 1863
The African American 54th Massachusetts Volunteers embark from Boston for the coast of South Carolina.May 29, 1863
President Lincoln telegraphs his concerns to Major General Ambrose Burnside in Ohio: “All the cabinet regretted the necessity of arresting . . . Vallandigham, some perhaps, doubting that there was a real necessity for it—but, done, all were for seeing you through it.”
Cump Sherman remains with Grant before the defenses of Vicksburg, telling his brother John:
“We have Vicksburg closely invested and its fate is sealed unless the enemy raises a large force from Carolina & Tennessee and assails us from without. . . . The place is very well fortified and is defended by 20,000 brave troops we have assaulted at five distinct times and failed to cross the parapet. Our loss was heavy and we are now approaching with pick and shovel.”May 30, 1863
Robert E. Lee reorganizes the Army of Northern Virginia into three corps. He taps lieutenant generals James Longstreet, Ambrose Powell Hill and Richard S. Ewell as commanders.May 31, 1863
Irby Scott is feeling better after a period of illness that has left him weak. Nevertheless, political developments have piqued his interest:
“I see the candidates for Governor of Georgia are beginning to work the mines. Yesterday we received some documents from Governor Brown. I believe he had them sent to every company in the Regiment. There is in it an extract from the Confederate Union showing how much he has done, what a good friend he is to the Soldier, also his message to the legislature recommending the passage of resolutions asking congress to increase the Soldiers pay. I had just as soon for him to come right out and asked me for my vote. . . . I think Brown has had it long enough and ought not to be so greedy.”
June 1863June 1, 1863
Ambrose Burnside’s fit of pique against expressions he deems treasonous continues as he orders the Chicago Times to cease operations.
Confederate war clerk, John B. Jones records a story in his journal that reflects the attitudes that prevail at this point of the war, at least in his mind:
“One of our pickets whistled a horse, drinking in the Rappahannock, and belonging to Hooker’s army, over to our side of the river. It was a very fine horse, and the Federal Gen. Patrick sent a flag demanding him, as he was not captured in battle. Our officer send back word that he would do so with pleasure, if the Yankees would send back the slaves and other property of the South not taken in battle. There it ended.”June 2, 1863
Outside Vicksburg, William T. Sherman suggests that Grant press Abraham Lincoln to use the draft to fill “the Old Regiments,” decimated by combat and disease. “I regard this matter as more important, than any other that could possibly arrest the attention of President Lincoln and it is for this reason, that I ask you to urge it upon him at this auspicious time. If adopted, it would be more important, than the conquest of Vicksburg, and Richmond together. . . .”
To his wife Ellen, Cump strikes a different note on the subject of the siege itself:
“I pity the poor families in Vicksburg women & children are living in caves and holes underground whilst our shot & shells tear through their houses overhead. . . . The South will not give up Vicksburg without the most desperate struggle.”June 3, 1863
Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia starts north.
Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and his 54th Massachusetts reaches the South Carolina coast.
President Lincoln asks Henry Halleck to provide his opinion on a plan to allow African American soldiers to be used for helping to construct a railroad between Washington and Pittsburgh, with time allotted for drill and government money repaid through the use of the link once it is built. Halleck responds that any such persons “paid out of the public treasury had better be employed on the forts rather than let out to work for corporations. Moreover, working on fortifications is a much better military training than working on Rail Roads.”
Marcus Woodcock of the 9th Kentucky Infantry (U.S.) notes the recent news from Vicksburg filtering into his camp at Murfreesboro, Tennessee:
“We place much importance by the capture of that city and think that when that is effected the ‘backbone of the Confederacy’ will be broken.”June 4, 1863
President Lincoln thinks that the suspension of the Chicago newspaper imposed by General Burnside should be lifted.June 5, 1863
Adorned in a new uniform, James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart stages a grand review of his mounted forces as a boost to morale and reminder of his prowess as a cavalry commander. Splashed against a backdrop of martial ardor, Stuart and his cavalcade, accept the cheers of prominent visitors and well-wishers. Since Robert E. Lee cannot attend, the dashing cavalier decides to hold another such ceremony in a few days for the benefit of his chief.June 6, 1863
U.S. Consul Charles Allen files a report to the war department on activities from Bermuda, noting the arrival, loading and departure of several blockade-running vessels, including the Robert E. Lee, which had brought in “600 bales cotton, turpentine, rosin & tobacco. She left yesterday for Wilmington with a cargo consisting of salt provisions, potatoes, onions, 300 boxes rifles, shot, shell cartridges and liquors.”June 7, 1863
Fighting at Milliken’s Bend pits forces against each other that include African American troops among the defenders. The engagement opens as Brigadier General Henry E. McCulloch’s men encounter Union pickets at approximately 4:00 A.M. Losses mount as the fighting develops, with some of the Federals caught in a severe crossfire, before the Union gunboats Choctaw and Lexington tilt the contest in the North’s favor when they throw the weight of their support and their metal into the engagement. Losses among the African Americans amount to a third of their number, with the total casualties set for the defenders at 652 (101 killed, 285 wounded and 266 missing). Despite their roles as attackers and the naval ordnance that tormented them before they pulled away, the Confederates suffer less casualties: 44 killed, 131 wounded and 10 missing.
At Fredericksburg, Colonel Frank Schaller of the 22nd Mississippi has the opportunity to visit the scene of fighting from the previous December on the Confederate right as he returns to duty:
“Before taking the ambulance which was to carry me to camp, I walked with the conductor of the train & another Gentleman ¼ mile down the Railroad and ascended the gentle hill upon which the late Major Pelham’s battery had been planted during the first battle of Fredericksburg, Dec 13./6. A more magnificent battlefield I never beheld.”June 8, 1863
Stuart’s second review comes off, this time with General Lee in attendance.June 9, 1863
The rumble of hooves and the sounds of battle sweep across the Culpeper County countryside as Union and Confederate cavalry crash into each other in the vicinity of Fleetwood Hill. Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton has brought his troopers against Jeb Stuart’s vaunted command in a test of strength that will rival any of its type yet seen in the war. For over ten hours, the men slash at each other, taking and reclaiming ground while casualty figures rise. By the time the combat ends at Brandy Station, the Federals have sustained a greater number of the fallen than their celebrated grayclad opponents, but Stuart has lost the edge he once enjoyed of an air of superiority, if not invincibility, that now no longer exists.
A powder magazine erupts in a fiery explosion that kills twenty and injures over a dozen more individuals.
Although beset by the fortunes of war and the incessant demands of political administration, Abe Lincoln sends a message to Mary, in Philadelphia, concerning their son: “Think you better put ‘Tad’s’ pistol away. I had an ugly dream about him.”June 10, 1863
President Lincoln’s thoughts return to the battlefield as he instructs Hooker: “I think Lee’s Army, and not Richmond, is your true objective point.”
A dramatic incident occurs off the coast of Virginia when Confederate officers bound for imprisonment at Fort Delaware overpower their guards aboard the transport steamer Maple Leaf. Some of the ninety-seven captives remain on board to honor paroles they had taken at the time of their capture, but the majority of the men make good their escape in the vessel’s shore boats.June 11, 1863
The exiled Clement Vallandigham receives the Democratic nomination for governor of Ohio in a raucous display of disdain for the Lincoln administration.
Union forces comprising African American troops under Colonel James Montgomery, and a reluctant Robert Gould Shaw, burn the seaport town of Darien, Georgia.June 12, 1863
President Lincoln articulates his position on war, civil liberties and the Constitution:
“If I be wrong on this question of constitutional power, my error lies in believing that certain proceedings are constitutional when, in cases of rebellion or Invasion, the public Safety requires them, which would not be constitutional when, in absence of rebellion or invasion, the public Safety does not require them—in other words, that the constitution is not in it’s application in all respects the same, in cases of Rebellion or invasion, involving the public Safety, as it is in times of profound peace and public security.”
North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender assesses the recent engagement at Brandy Station for his wife Fanny:
“The Cavalry affair in Culpeper was a sad one and our loss was very serious. Stuart lost some of his best officers. . . . I suppose it is all right that Stuart should get all the blame, for when anything handsome is done he gets all the credit. A bad rule either way. He however retrieved the surprise by whipping them in the end.”
Lieutenant Charles Read of the Confederate navy uses his vessel Clarence to capture the Tacony, to which he transfers his ship’s complement before sinking her.
Blockade-running through Bermuda seems to be on the increase, as Consul Allen, notes:
“The steamer Eugenie left here yesterday for Wilmington with a large quantity of salt provisions, rifles and sabres.”June 14, 1863
Battle erupts around the oft-contested community of Winchester, Virginia, as Confederates under Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell confront their counterparts under Major General Robert H. Milroy. Ewell’s men approach the Union positions from several directions and the Southerners overrun a portion of the opposing works.
At Port Hudson, Major General Nathaniel P. Banks seeks to effect the surrender of the Confederate defenders. Supported by fire from a naval flotilla, he orders an assault that begins at 4:00 A.M. Union forces manage to break through the defenses, but have insufficient strength to sustain, much less exploit the breach in the Southern lines in an area known as Priest Cap. By mid-morning any hope of Federal success has diminished as the stubborn defenders hold their ground, at a cost, to the attackers of 1,805 casualties.June 15, 1863
Union forces start to withdraw from Winchester in the early morning hours. Ewell hopes to cut the line of retreat and cripple his opponents. Major General Edward “Allegheny” Johnson strikes the blue column at Stephenson’s Depot at approximately 3:30 A.M. Fighting at Second Winchester results in 47 killed, 219 wounded and 3 missing for the Confederates. The Federals suffer 95 killed, 348 wounded and as many as 4,000 captured or missing, with the loss of 23 cannon and 300 wagons, plus ample military stores.June 16, 1863
President Lincoln calls for 100,000 militia from the states that are under direct threat from the movement of the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River, as well as a quota of such forces from Ohio and West Virginia.
From Folly Island, South Carolina, Alvin Voris celebrates his good fortune and his wife’s thirty-third birthday:
“I have a pine apple on my table just taken from a wrecked steamer from the W Indies that attempted to run the blockade a few nights ago, but ran aground a few rods from our picket lines. This vessel has been in the habit of running the blockade for months, going out & coming in near the coast in shallow water where the heavy navy vessels cannot go, always taking the advantage of dark nights, but this time she missed her reckoning and ran aground. I have smoked her cigars and tasted her pine apples. We are getting her cargo as fast as we can under the rebel fire. . . . Here are two drops of pine apple. Perhaps you can get a smell.”June 17, 1863
Georgian Irby Scott informs his father:
“I reckon you will be a little surprised when you receive this letter and find I am in Maryland. . . . We have had to wade all the rivers in our march. My feet have been very sore but have got better. . . . Quite a difference between the looks of things here and in Virginia. These people do not feel the effects of the war much.”
Union cavalry under Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick clashes with a screening force of Confederate horsemen under Colonel Thomas T. Munford at Aldie in Virginia. In the meantime, Colonel Alfred Duffié probes toward Middleburg, prompting Jeb Stuart to pull out of his headquarters in the town before sending Brigadier General Beverly Robertson to contest the Union approach.
C.S.S. Atlanta engages the U.S.S. Weehawken and the U.S.S. Nahant with disastrous results for the Confederate vessel when the fighting forces her commander to capitulate to his opponents.
Consul Allen reports to Secretary of State Seward that “large quantities of merchandise are shipping from New York to these islands and here transferred on board steamers for the blockaded ports.”June 18, 1863
General Grant finally finds the means to rid himself of the troublesome political general John McClernand, after the latter violates military directives concerning the publication of official communications in the press.June 20, 1863
Fighting at Middleburg results in the capture of some 200 Federal horsemen in the 1st Rhode Island by Colonel John R. Chambliss. Colonel Duffié escapes from the encounter and subsequently reforms the remainder of his regiment.
West Virginia becomes the 35th state to join the Union.
Clement Vallandigham arrives at Bermuda as he seeks transit to Canada.June 21, 1863
Sherman strikes a personal cord as he sends a letter to his son “Willy:”
“You must continue to write to me, and tell me everything—how tall in feet & inches—how heavy—can you ride, swim—how many feet & inches you jump. Everything. Of me you will always hear much that is bad, and much that is good. . . .”
Union brigadier general David McMurtrie Gregg pushes Jeb Stuart’s horsemen in the vicinity of Upperville, Virginia, as mounted Federal forces continue their efforts to determine the exact location and disposition of Robert E. Lee’s army.June 22, 1863
President Lincoln reiterates his position on the issue of emancipation in Missouri, a state to which the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply:
“Desirous as I am, that emancipation shall be adopted by Missouri, and believing as I do, that gradual can be made better than immediate for both black and white, except when military necessity changes the case, my impulse is to say that such protection [to slaveholders in these circumstances]would be given. . . . I do not wish to pledge the general government to the affirmative support of even temporary slavery, beyond what can be fairly claimed under the constitution. . . . I have very earnestly urged the slave-states to adopt emancipation; and it ought to be, and is an object with me not to overthrow, or thwart what any of them may in good faith do, to that end.”
Charles Read’s Tacony is having a field day with Northern water craft off the coast of New England, tallying five fishing vessels to his account.June 23, 1863
The Army of North Virginia begins to cross the Potomac.
The Tullahoma Campaign opens in Middle Tennessee as William S. Rosecrans maneuvers Braxton Bragg out of the positions each has held since the battle of Stones River.June 24, 1863
Dorsey Pender has reached Shepherdstown and takes a moment to inform his anxious wife: “Tomorrow I do what I know will cause you grief, and that is to cross the Potomac.”
The mounted infantry of Colonel John T. Wilder’s “Lightning Brigade,” bearing new seven-shot Spencer repeating rifles, battles both Confederate defenders and the elements to take and hold Hoover’s Gap, Tennessee.
An exasperated Charles Allen writes his wife of the changing state of affairs at his station:
“A great many blockade-runners in the harbor now, more than ever before—3 or 4 a day sometimes but few get caught. They are making a great deal of money. The rebel steamer Florida came in yesterday and left at night; she has burned one or two vessels near land and had blockaded the port for nearly two weeks; neither the Authorities nor the papers do not find one word of fault; it is all right when it is on that side; if one of our vessels should do so there would be a ‘howling,’”June 25, 1863
nion troops explode a mine at Vicksburg as they probe for weaknesses that might be exploited to end the siege.
At Hoover’s Gap, Indianan William Bluffton Miller experiences his baptism of combat:
“The skirmishing commenced at day light and I Shot a man for the first time in my life and had the same compliment returned. There is a Rebel picket post near ours and they make us keep close to our Trees as they seam to shoot well. . . . We picked up Severel wounded Johnies and among the rest the one that made so much nois near us last night. He has boath Thighs broken. We also got a young Rebel Major shot through the body and he repents of his error and said if he got well he will not fight us any more but I think his days are numbered.”
Lt. Read once again captures a Northern vessel he deems superior to the one he has used heretofore. He transfers his flag to the Archer and destroys the Tacony before setting out once more to create havoc among his opponent’s commerce.June 26, 1863
At Hanover Court House, a Union raiding party captures Brigadier General William H.F. “Rooney” Lee, while he is convalescing as a result of his Brandy Station wounds.
Rear Admiral Andrew H. Foote dies in New York City.
Having reached Portland, Maine and seizes the U.S. revenue cutter, Caleb Cushing. Despite this success, Lt. Read finds his luck is rapidly running out when Union forces close on him. When he cannot escape, Read fires the Caleb Cushing and surrenders. A supreme effort, now numbering almost fifty vessels, has ended a colorful and fruitful venture that has resulted in the capture and destruction or bonding of twenty-two craft over the course of nineteen days.June 27, 1863
George Gordon Meade assumes command of the Army of the Potomac, replacing “Fighting Joe” Hooker, who has failed to contain Robert E. Lee.
Sherman writes his wife Ellen of the state of affairs at Vicksburg:June 28, 1863
“We cant show a hand or cap above our rifle pits without attracting a volley. But, of course there must be an end to all things & I think if Johnston do not make a mighty effort to relieve Vicksburg in a week they will cave in.”
The Union general notes the stalwart approach of some of the Southerners he has encountered with a grudging admiration, mixed with the cold calculus of war, especially toward those he had known prior to the conflict:
“I doubt if History affords a parallel of the deep & bitter enmity of the women of the South. No one who sees them & hears them but must feel the intensity of their hate. . . . Vicksburg contains many of my old pupils & friends. Should it fall into our hands I will treat them with kindness, but they have sowed the wind & must reap the whirlwind. Until they lay down their arms, and submit to the rightful authority of their Government, they must not appeal to me for mercy or favors.”
Jubal Early reaches York, Pennsylvania.
From Chambersburg, South Carolinian Tally Simpson observes:
“We passed the Pennsylvania line on yesterday about 10 o’clock at a little town called Middleburg. I could not then and am not yet able to realize the fact I am in Yankeedom. . . . The country is the most beautiful I ever beheld, and the wheat and corn crops are magnificent. . . . to all appearances they have never experienced any of the inconveniences and horrors of war.”
Pender is pleased with the progress of his comrades thus far:
“Everything seems to be going on finely. We might get to Phila. without a fight, I believe, if we should choose to go. . . . This campaign will do one of two things: viz—to cause a speedy peace or a more tremendous war than we have had, the former may God grant. . . .”June 29, 1863
While marching with the Union forces pursuing the Army of Northern Virginia, Charles Maddox of the 17th Maine, pauses at Taneytown, Maryland, to enter into diary his views on the change in army leadership:
“Today we hear that Hooker’s head is off, and that Meade is assigned to command of the army. So the thing goes. We may yet have a regular system of changing commanders every month.”
Emerson Opdycke has arrived at Manchester, Tennessee, as part of the Tullahoma Campaign. The movement has started well with regard to the enemy, but less so concerning the elements:
“We left Murfreesboro on the 24th, it commenced raining that morning, and has hardly ceased since. The roads have become almost impassable. . . . I never saw such indescribable roads. We are about thirty miles out. The whole Army of the Cumberland is in motion. The rebels are retreating.”
Fellow traveler William Miller records his similar experiences:
“It commenced raining while we were in the Stree[t] and it beat any rain I ever seen. The Street was a perfect river and it nearly drounded us but we had to take it. It rained all afternoon. We marched within about four miles of Tullahoma and camped on a tributary of Elk River.”
At Goodrich’s Landing in Louisiana, Confederate colonel William H. Parsons, reinforced by men under Brigadier General James C. Tappan has succeeded in convincing 115 African Americans of the 1st Arkansas Infantry and their five white officers to surrender. His men torch nearby plantations associated with the recruiting and training of these troops.June 30, 1863
Jeb Stuart attacks the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry at Hanover, Pennsylvania. Brigadier General Elon J. Farnsworth valiantly drives off a portion of the Southern force and nearly captures Stuart himself.
Action continues near Lake Providence, Louisiana, where Union troops force Colonel Parsons to withdraw after a successful raid into the region.
In Tennessee, W.B. Miller notes:
“We have plenty of mud and our trains can hardly move at all. No mail come to us. I presume the cause of the delay is the repairing of the Rail Road so as to supply us. The Rebels destroy all the Bridges as they retreat and our enjineers have to repair as we advance.”
July 1863July 1, 1863
At 5 A.M., Confederate major general Henry Heth shakes his column into motion. A light drizzle sets in as the graycoats probe forward along the rolling Pennsylvania landscape. The first Union figures appear and disappear. Skirmishers go out and the Southern troops continue their advance. The first shot of the engagement to come is said to belong to Lieutenant Marcellus E. Jones, 8th Illinois Cavalry, who has borrowed a carbine from one of his sergeants to perform the deed. Fighting develops in the vicinity of the small crossroads community of Gettysburg as more Confederates encounter, first the Union cavalry of John Buford and then infantry under Major General John F. Reynolds. Buford ably employs successive ridgelines for defense, with Reynolds deploying his I Corps as it arrives before he falls to Confederate gunfire. Major General Oliver O. Howard’s XI Corps helps to bolster Union resistance, but additional troops under lieutenant generals Ambrose Powell Hill and Richard S. Ewell finally push the blueclad defenders through Gettysburg and onto the heights beyond. The first day of an engagement that Robert E. Lee has not wanted has nevertheless gone to his veterans.
Emerson Opdycke has reached Manchester, Tennessee, in the midst of the Tullahoma Campaign, but the going has been difficult, as he explains to his wife:
“We arrived at this place yesterday, have been seven days coming thirty two miles, and it rained every day of the seven, making the road almost impassable.”
W.P. DuBose is with Joseph Johnston in Mississippi, although he admits, “Johnston’s plan is still in mystery.”
“While I write, I am enjoying the music of an excellent band belonging to a brigade near us. At this moment they are playing ‘sleeping I dream Love, dream Love of thee’ & under its transforming power the realities around me do seem to fade away, & leave in their stead a bright & soothing dream of which you are the centre & the charm.”July 2, 1863
Through the night and into the early morning hours, more Union troops, including their overall commander, George Gordon Meade, arrive at Gettysburg. It is all but certain that combat will continue to swirl around the Pennsylvania hamlet, although the nature of the tactical developments remains to be seen. Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet are at odds as to the manner in which to engage the Federals and Lee’s pugnacity on this occasion wins out. “The enemy is there and I am going to attack him there.” Union major general Daniel Sickles has unwittingly assisted the Southerners on the far Union left by advancing his command to a position in front of Cemetery Ridge. “The Peach Orchard” and “Wheatfield,” will win bloody renown as Longstreet’s men, under Major General Lafayette McLaws moves against them. Adjacent to this advance, Major General John Bell Hood will drive the direction of Big and Little Round Tops, passing toward the latter through a cluster of boulders called “Devil’s Den.” Union major general Gouverneur K. Warren, watches this development with alarm and summons defenders to hasten to the position, which they reach just moments before Alabamians under Colonel William Oates. Fighting on the Union right occurs at Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill, where the Confederates enjoy limited success, but cannot force the Federal line to collapse. The Confederate effort has been costly, with Hood and William Barksdale among the general officers down. In the meantime, Lee’s wayward cavalry commander, Major General James E.B. Stuart, has arrived. For his part, George Meade knows that the issue has been a close one, and assembles his corps commanders for a council of war to determine what should happen next.
Confederate war clerk John B. Jones describes the state of affairs in Richmond:
“The President is unwell again; to what extent I have not learned. But the Vice-President is ready, no doubt, to take his place in the event of a fatal result; and some would rejoice at it. Such is the mutability of political affairs!”
At a distressed Vicksburg, Pemberton convenes a council of war to assess the situation as it currently stands. The prospects are grim that any change of affairs will occur to bring relief to a garrison weakened by the prolonged operations and shrinking resources.July 3, 1863
At Gettysburg, the Union commanders have determined to hold their ground. Lee and Longstreet continue to debate the manner in which the Confederates should wage the battle that has taken place over the last two days. Longstreet convinces his chief that the Union left cannot be turned and Lee opts for a blow at the center, assuming that the Federals have weakened it to strength their threatened flanks. Richard Ewell initiates further attacks on Culp’s Hill, but makes no headway before enduring a counterattack that allows the Federals to recapture some previous lost ground. By noon this fight is over, but the dramatic moment of the day remains.
On the fringes of the main battle, Stuart’s cavalry encounters Union troops under Brigadier General David Gregg. In heavy fighting in the vicinity of John Rummel’s farm, George Armstrong Custer wins glory for himself and his Michigan Wolverines. While, at Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick’s behest, Elon J. Farnsworth rides against Confederate infantry in a bold, but ill-fated effort that leads to the young brigadier’s death.
At 3:00 in the afternoon, following a bombardment that had opened two hours earlier that featured some 180 tubes, approximately 12,000 Confederates under George Pickett, Isaac Trimble and James J. Pettigrew move toward the Union center. Federal artillery has responded with vigor, but the shifting of guns and the deployment efforts of Henry Hunt, the Army of the Potomac’s chief of artillery, have left the Union batteries in good condition to resist “Pickett’s Charge.” The greatest damage of the largely overshooting Southern artillery rounds from Seminary Ridge has been to Federal rearward positions, including Meade’s headquarters. As the Confederates surge forward, crossing the Emmitsburg Road and closing on a small copse of trees in the distance, Winfield Scott Hancock’s men and the supporting elements unleash a firestorm on the approaching gray lines that rip gaping holes in the them and inflict horrendous casualties. The survivors who can reach the Union lines, break through momentarily before being blasted back or captured. Lewis Armistead, prewar friend of Hancock’s, who has been encouraging his men with his hat poised on the tip of his sword, is among the severely, perhaps mortally, wounded. Robert E. Lee watches as the remnants of the gray tide recede. “The fault is entirely my own,” he admits in quiet despair. The butcher’s bill for the three days of combat at Gettysburg amounts to 25,000 Union and 28,000 Confederate killed, wounded, captured or missing.
At 10 A.M., a white flag appears above the defensive works at Vicksburg. General Grant agrees to meet with his counterpart in the afternoon and the men discuss the surrender of Pemberton’s defenders. Tensions are understandably high as the proud Northern-born Confederate desires to ameliorate the outcome to which his opponent and the siege have reduced his command. The meeting nearly ends in failure, but continues when, by some accounts, Major General John Bowen intercedes and suggests that subordinates allow the generals to retire and let the process proceed with their representatives.
In Mississippi, William T. Sherman wires Ulysses Grant:
“If you are in Vicksburg Glory Hallelujah the best fourth of July since 1776[.]”
From the South Carolina coast, Union officer Alvin Coe Voris writes his wife:
“I feel rather sadly this afternoon & have just returned from a visit to the hospital. . . . One poor fellow will probably die in a few hours. He was in a close corner of the tent, & could not get air enough & was quite restless because the attendant would not roll the bottom of the tent up. I ordered a seam to be ripped open near his head, remarking that the Col was good for something yet. . . . O! how I pity the poor soldier who has to die in the field far from home. No kind mother, wife or sister to attend him as his trembling body sinks in the rivers of death. No one at home will ever know how much they owe to the patriotic soldier who thus offers up his life, a sacrifice for his home, his country.”
Robert E. Lee begins his withdrawal from Gettysburg, with the ever-present worry that George Meade will try to prevent the Confederates from returning to Virginia.
After some wrangling, the antagonists agree that the garrison that has defended Vicksburg against direct assaults and siege operations will surrender. Grant enters the town to watch the Stars and Stripes raised over the stately courthouse and the prize which he has so long sought is now rightly his.
Confederates engage Union defenders at Helena, Arkansas, as they seek to offer some succor for Vicksburg in vain. The Federals disperse the effort.
At Tebb’s Bend on the Green River in Kentucky, General Morgan endures defeat, but determines to continue his raid.
A Confederate gunboat brings Vice President Alexander Stephens down to Hampton Roads from Richmond on a diplomatic mission that has already been doomed to failure before news can arrive about developments on the battle fronts.
The news of the fall of the Confederate river city begins to spread, with Cump Sherman offering Grant his words of congratulations:
“The telegraph has just announced to me that Vicksburg is ours. . . . I can hardly contain myself.”
From Washington City, President Lincoln releases an announcement pertaining to “news from the Army of the Potomac, up to 10 P.M. of the 3rd . . . such as to cover that Army with the highest honor, to promise a great success to the cause of the Union, and to claim the condolence of all for the many gallant fallen.”
In Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke continues to push his men forward as much as conditions will allow. His men are exhausted from the experience, but in generally good spirits, tempered by the knowledge that the Union forces have yet to bring their opponents to ground:
“I feel very cheerful over the situation generally. . . . Bragg has been saved by the eight days rain just over.”
Edward O. Guerrant is in far southeastern Virginia as he surveys the state of the Union on the occasion:
“4th July 1776. Freedom’s Birth Day, on this side of the Waters of the Great Sea! Died on 4h. March 1861—aged 85 years! Left one heir & glorious offspring,—in Dixie! Clothed in garments dyed in blood that youthful Child of Freedom (C.S.A.) stands today in proud and lofty defiance of the Tyrant’s tremendous power.”July 5, 1863
With Vicksburg secure, Sherman sets his sights on Joseph Johnston and Jackson, Mississippi.July 6, 1863
Rear Admiral Samuel F. Du Pont, commanding the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, has fallen afoul of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles for his inability to enjoy any success against the defenses of Charleston. John A. Dahlgren will follow in his stead.July 7, 1863
The Conscription Act goes into effect in the North.
President Lincoln continues to digest the military developments that have unfolded in recent days, telling Major General Henry Halleck:
“We have certain information that Vicksburg surrendered to General Grant on the 4th of July. Now, if General Meade can complete his work, so gloriously prosecuted thus far, by the literal or substantial destruction of Lee’s army, the rebellion will be over.”
A small, but sharp fight at Gladeville, Virginia, leads to the surrender of Confederate colonel Benjamin Caudill and 126 men.
In Bermuda, U.S. consul C.M. Allen reports the arrival of crew members from commercial vessels captured and destroyed by Confederate captain John Newland Maffitt and the CSS Florida. He has arranged passage for these individuals back to the United States on a British ship at a cost of $770 in gold, as the government would stand otherwise to bear “an expense of about $40 per day for an indefinite period of time.”
In Charleston, Emma Holmes visits Fort Sumter with a small party.
“We had a pleasant time. I was at first much disappointed in the appearance of the fort expecting to have seen it in the same beautiful order which I heard spoken of last summer, forgetting that the damages of April 7th necessitated repairs, as well as additional strengthening, so of course, mortar & bricks & sand were still laying about.”July 8, 1863
Confederate commander, Franklin Gardner, holding on grimly at Port Hudson learns of Vicksburg’s surrender and seeks terms of his own from Nathaniel P. Banks. Banks insists upon the unconditional capitulation of the garrison and Gardner recognizes that he has little choice but to comply.
John Hunter Morgan crosses the Ohio on a spectacular raid that he hopes will garner significant results.
Emerson Opdycke finds his spirits buoyed by developments on another front, with all of the attendant and hopeful implications for the outcome of the war:
“The glorious news reached me this morning before I was up, Vicksburg is ours! 20,000 prisoners and 118 cannon!! I give it all full credence the beginning of the end appears, and then, Home sweet Home.”July 9, 1863
Approximately 7,000 Confederate troops march out of Port Hudson as prisoners. With the fall of that post the Mississippi River is now essentially open to Union navigation and closed to the Confederacy, cutting off the Trans-Mississippi for all intents and purposes from the remainder.
In Richmond, Josiah Gorgas notes the unease that prevails as rumors pass through the city, but closes with an upbeat assessment on at least one front, most notably emphasizing the waterborne exploits of Charles Read to disrupt Union commerce:
“Some very daring things have been done on the water on our side. . . . Such things, together with the career of the Alabama and Florida, keep alive the spirit of the Navy, & prevent it falling into utter insignificance.”
Morgan’s raiders capture the better part of 450 local militia mobilized to confront them near Corydon, Indiana. Despite this success, the cavalryman has placed his command in a precarious position with the Ohio River at his back and other forces gathering against him.July 10, 1863
In South Carolina, the siege of the Confederate work, Fort/Battery Wagner, opens.
Local resident Emma Holmes seeks diversion from the depressing developments of the raging conflicts:
“Dull & dispirited as we all felt yesterday evening, we thought we might as well go to Mr. Bulls’ musical soiree & enjoy some good music, even if it were the last time.”July 11, 1863
A frontal assault on Fort Wagner fails to secure it for the Union attackers.July 12, 1863
From the vantage point of his campaign in Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke assesses leadership in the various theaters, including his commander, William Starke Rosecrans, writing hastily in a note to his wife:
“There are many officers of high rank here, who do not esteem his generalship as highly as does the country. . . .
I presume that Gen. Meade has answered your quiries in regard to him before this time, I am satisfied that Hooker is a failure; regular officers here do not speak well of him as a military man. Still I do not beleive the country would have been satisfied without trying him, I thank Heaven for Meade, his achievments are the greatest of any general in this war, thus far, Grants’ next, but Grants’ task has been a question of persistence and time. Meade’s has been a test of qualities, as the commander of a defeated Army, pitted against a powerful and victorious one.”July 13, 1863
Angry demonstrations rock the streets of New York City as protests grow over conscription. The mob targets institutions as well as individuals and gathers in intensity and numbers.
President Abraham Lincoln takes a moment to introduce himself to the general who has gained so much success in the Western Theater by capturing Vicksburg:
“I do not remember that you and I ever met personally. I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost inestimable service you have done your country.”
Lincoln had preferred that Grant join with Nathanial Banks along the Mississippi, "...and when you turned Northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.”
Not all news from along the Mississippi River is bad for the Confederates. A Union effort under brigadier generals Godfrey Weitzel and Cuvier Grover comes to naught in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, with a lopsided affair that produces over 450 Union casualties to less than a hundred for their opponents and allows Major General Richard Taylor a free hand in removing captured supplies.July 14, 1863
New York continues to experience the turmoil of the draft riots.
President Lincoln contemplates a communication with Meade that expresses his appreciation of his success but his enormous distress at the failure to finish Lee’s army before it can cross back into Virginia as it has now done. The cathartic exercise is enough and the message remains unsent.July 15, 1863
Departing his post on a much-needed leave of absence to return to the United States, C.M. Allen turns official reporting duties over to William C.J. Hyland, who notes:
“The steamer Robt. E. Lee under the flag of the so called Confederate States arrived at this port on the 9th inst. from Wilmington with Cotton and Turpentine and is now taking in cargo from Warehouse for a return voyage.”July 16, 1863
An international incident occurs when the USS Wyoming fires on local defenses in the waters of Japan. The vessel has been attempting to track the Confederate commerce raider Alabama when she diverts momentarily to support American interests under pressure from growing anti-foreign sentiment that has evolved into an order of expulsion and an attempt to seize or destroy at least one U.S. merchant vessel. As part of an effort to demonstrate American resolve and apply a lesson in deterrence concerning any future threats to U.S. interests, Commodore David McDougal leads Wyoming into the Straits of Shimonoseki to confront hostile elements that include the vessels responsible for the earlier incident. Despite running aground for a short time, Wyoming returns the fire she is receiving from shore batteries and drives off or sinks three of the opposing ships before retiring. Five members of McDougal’s crew are dead or mortally wounded, while another half dozen have sustained wounds.
The disturbances in New York finally subside, leaving an undetermined number of victims, which some newspaper accounts set as high as a thousand, but are more likely much less numerous, despite the extensive property damage from the fighting in the streets. In any case, the draft riots expose tensions and divisions in the city and elsewhere in the North that help critics to turn the conflict into the embodiment of, “A Rich Man’s War and a Poor Man’s Fight.”July 17, 1863
In the battle of Honey Springs, Indian Territory, Union general James G. Blunt confronts Brigadier General Douglas H. Cooper.
President Davis has recovered from his illness, but not from ill-temper regarding the loss of Vicksburg. Ordnance Chief Gorgas notes his chief’s state of mind in his journal:
“I saw the President yesterday. He is bitter against Johnston, as I judge from a single remark. When I said that Vicksburg fell apparently from want alone of provisions, he remarked, ‘Yes, from want of provisions inside and a general outside who wouldn’t fight.’”
South Carolinian Tally Simpson recounts the travails of the retreat from Gettysburg to his sister:
“The night we left Hagerstown was the worst I ever saw. The mud was almost knee deep and about as thick as corn meal batter. We waded through it like horses, and such a squashing you never heard. I believe I had over fifteen or twenty pounds of mud clinging to my shoes and pants.”
In Bermuda, the colorful Southern raider John Maffitt orders a salute to be fired by CSS Florida, having obtained a promise from the British that the gesture would be returned. The act is hardly the same as securing official recognition from Her Majesty’s government, but it provides the Confederate skipper with a sign of respect that galls the Union officials on the island.July 18, 1863
Robert Gould Shaw leads the men of the 54th Massachusetts against the formidable works of Battery Wagner. He perishes in the effort along with at least 245 of his comrades, while another 389 remain unaccounted for and 880 wounded. By contrast, the Confederate defenders suffer 36 killed, 133 wounded and 5 missing in repulsing the blue assault. They bury Shaw with his men.
Confederate private W.L. Barrett battles despondency and illness as he writes from near Richmond, Virginia, to family in South Carolina:
“the soldiers has a by word when any body dies or anything lost saying its gone up the spout. tell Washington that I say the Confederacy is on her way up the spout. nothing more.”
Morgan arrives at the Ohio River, looking for an opportunity to cross and thus extricate his command from the vulnerable position in which he placed them and himself.July 19, 1863
Morgan’s raiders sustain heavy losses in fighting at Buffington Island on the Ohio River. The Confederates lose over 800 men, most of who the Federals capture, while Morgan and a few hundred others escape.July 20, 1863
Ned Guerrant finds little comfort in the newspaper accounts that are reaching him:
“Our news from every direction is bad. Port Hudson has shared the fate of her gallant sister.”July 21, 1863
In Bermuda, Vice Consul Hyland keeps his superiors informed of activities in the wake of the visit of Florida to local waters:
“She is undergoing repairs to hull and machinery, and is in want of coal which has been refused her by the Naval Department at these Islands. She is now alongside the Robert E. Lee transshipping silver bars, chronometers, etc. for Wilmington. The Steamer Harriet Pinckney is momently expected from Halifax with coal for rebel steamers.”July 22, 1863
George Meade hopes to achieve some advantage in the wake of the Gettysburg Campaign by sending troops under Major General William H. French to probe for Robert E. Lee’s forces in the vicinity of Manassas Gap looking for an opportunity to strike.July 23, 1863
Rapid maneuvering by the Confederates and missed opportunities for the Federals prevent a significant action from occurring as French attempts to carry out his commander’s wishes to further discomfort the battered Army of Northern Virginia.
In the Far East, Commodore McDougal informs Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles that he has carried out his mission successfully and believes that the “lesson” he has imposed will “not soon be forgotten.” It remains to be seen if the daimyo (war lord) of the Choshu clan that McDougal’s tars battled on July 16 will view the matter in the same light once the U.S. warship has departed local waters.July 24, 1863
William Collett is with Joseph Johnston in Mississippi. While he and his comrades have been unable to relieve Vicksburg they are not without tales of their own:
“I have went threw A heap of Narow esscapes since I have bine out her. the bulets and shel have sailed a Rowound me thick but not one didnt hit me at all.
I come of Remarcable Well for the Way the balls fell a Round. We have fell back from Jackson thirty five miles.”July 25, 1863
Light skirmishing and a reorganization of a Confederate department mark an otherwise relatively quiet day in what has been a bloody month.July 26, 1863
The dashing Confederate cavalryman John Morgan can dash no longer in hopes of avoiding the Union forces descending upon his band. At Salineville, Ohio, he and 364 men surrender. Morgan’s Ohio Raid has covered approximately seven hundred miles and lasted almost a month in duration, but for all of the distress it has generated, dollars in destroyed property experienced and diversion of resources it has required, the overall effect has been less than he had hopedJuly 27, 1863
William Hyland’s report is filled with the busy activity that continues to suggest the degree to which trade occurs that favors the Confederacy. He adds an occasional gentle barb toward the British in his official correspondence:
“The British iron screw steamer Miriam arrived at this port on the 25th instant in 17 days from Liverpool with a full cargo of merchandise, much of which I learned consists of arms for the rebel states and will be warehoused in stores hired by their agents here.
The steamship Florida also sailed on the evening of the same day after caulking and repairing vessel and taking a full supply of the best Cardiff coal brought here from Halifax by steamer Harriet Pinkney.
I have also to report the arrival yesterday of the British paddle steamer Lord Clyde and Banshee and Confederate steamer Lady Davis formerly the Cornubia and this morning steamer Eugenie all from Wilmington with cotton.”July 28, 1863
The man who had once hoped to secure a compromise that would prevent hostilities in the wake of the secession of South Carolina has died. John J. Crittenden of Kentucky has remained in Congress, but had been in declining health, before returning finally to his home in Frankfort. Crittenden’s sons have become generals, reflecting the divided nature of the conflict for many, as George had sided with the Confederacy and Thomas remains with the Union.
Josiah Gorgas reflects on developments that have turned decidedly against the Confederacy:
"Events have succeeded on another with disastrous rapidity. One brief month ago we were apparently at the point of success. Lee was in Pennsylvania, threatening Harrisburgh, and even Philadelphia. Vicksburg seemed to laugh all Grant’s efforts to scorn, & the northern papers had reports of his raising the siege. Port Hudson had beaten off Banks’ forces, and ‘the question’ said a northern correspondent was only now, could he save the remnant of his army. Taylor had driven the enemy from the greater part of Louisiana, and had captured immense stores at Brashear. . . . All looked bright. Now the picture is just as sombre as it was bright then. . . . It seems incredible that human power could effect such a change in so brief a space. Yesterday we rode on the pinnacle of success—to-day absolute ruin seems to be our portion. The Confederacy totters to its destruction.”July 29, 1863
Queen Victoria informs the Parliament that she believes that there is presently “no reason to depart from the strict neutrality which Her Majesty has observed from the beginning of the contest.”July 30, 1863
President Lincoln takes steps to protect the men who serve the Union, regardless of race, buttressed by the threat of retaliation for violations by the Confederates.July 31, 1863
Desultory skirmishing marks the end of a month of heavy fighting and stirring developments that have lifted Union spirits and darkened those of adherents to the Confederacy.
August 1863August 1, 1863
Cavalry forces under John Buford and Pierce M.B. Young clash in the area of Brandy Station, Va. Confederate reinforcements compel Buford to withdraw, but not before recently promoted brigadier general Laurence S. Baker suffers a severe wound that requires amputation of the damaged limb.
President Jefferson Davis issues a proclamation exhorting his countrymen to continue to persist despite having already endured “more than two years of warfare scarcely equaled in the number, magnitude, and fearful carnage of its battles. . . .”
“Fellow-citizens, no alternative is left you but victory or subjugation, slavery, and the utter ruin of yourselves, your families, and your country. The victory is within your reach. You need but stretch forth your hands to grasp it.”
Davis follows with an appeal to those “who now owe duty to their country” to remain in or return to the ranks, issuing as incentive to the latter, “a general pardon and amnesty to all officers and men within the Confederacy now absent without leave, or who have remained absent beyond the period allowed by their furloughs. . . .”
Emma Holmes is back in Charleston, recalling happier times and providing insight into the impact of warfare on her world:
“I walked this afternoon amidst whole streets in ruin to visit our old home; found some soldiers encamped on the spot, so did not go quite to it. But sat for some time on the foundations of Mr. Bull’s iron fencing sadly recalling the memories of the past, as I gazed on each familiar point in the beautiful water landscape. The pillars and tall iron steps of Mr. Bull’s porch still remained, with vines climbing here & there, bringing vividly to mind our pleasant tableaux & oyster parties & the many, many changes in the merry girls and youths there and then assembled.”
William T. Sherman asserts that the events in which he has participated are the most meaningful of the conflict, telling a friend:
“The capture of Vicksburg, the opening of the Mississippi and driving out of the valley all the main armies, that threatened it, are the only real events of the War thus far, that look to a conclusion. In the East, and in Kentucky and Missouri they have fought battles and manouvered fast armies, but no great results have been achieved. Here we have achieved a real conclusion.”
In Louisiana, William Henry King is in a despairing mood:
“From the best intelligence we can gather, our armies are retreating in almost every department. . . . No doubt but heavy desertions will prevail throughout the entire Confederacy. Many of the citizens will take the oath of allegiance, & general discouragement prevail every where. These facts will greatly encourage the enemy, both citizen & soldier. Our condition is deplorable, but despondence works no good, so we should bear patiently whatever evils may befall us.”August 2, 1863
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas notes the still promising avenue of aid from abroad via blockade-runners:
“Our freight steamers continue to run to Bermuda, from Wilmington. This is our chief source of supply for arms, and we get our steel, tin, zince [zinc], & various other articles wholly in this way. We also import leather, tools, hardware, medicines, saltpetre, lead, etc., etc. in large quantities. We own four belonging to my Bureau, & there are others running in which the War Dept is largely interested. Thus far none of our vessels has been captured, tho we have now made some fifty trips out & back. ”August 3, 1863
With intense feelings still smoldering in his largest city from recent draft riots, Governor Horatio Seymour requests that President Lincoln suspend conscription in the state of New York.
Lincoln is feeling more at ease with regard to recent battlefield developments, particularly noting to a colleague the importance of the capture of Port Hudson:
“By that, and our other successes, I am greatly encouraged; still, we must not flag in our efforts, till the end shall be more clearly in view than it yet is.”August 4, 1863
Union guns continue to pound Fort Wagner, outside of Charleston, as part of a heightened effort to bring pressure on the Confederate defenders of the beleaguered city.
While in stifling confinement at Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland, wounded John Edward Dooley records that he is finally able to leave his bed for a brief period:
“Today I move about a little and visit the Sans Culottes Club which name my fellow prisoners in the other ward apply to themselves, for we are nearly all day without our nether garments.”
From Richmond, War Clerk John B. Jones records price levels for certain items in the capital city:
“Confederate notes are now given for gold at the rate of $12 or $15 for $1. Flour is $40 per barrel; bacon $1.75 per pound. . . . Butter is selling at $3 per pound, etc. etc.”
Cump Sherman complains that some of his men have carried their notions of warfare to extremes that he has found difficult to check. In such a case, the soldier pleads that he is under superior orders while the officer to whom that man answers insists that he is not the one who has committed the depredation and thus should not be held accountable for it. Sherman insists, “The amount of burning, stealing, and plundering done by our army makes me ashamed of it. I would quit the service if I could, because I fear that we are drifting to the worst sort of vandalism. I have endeavored to repress this class of crime, but you know how difficult it is to fix the guilt among the great mass of all [the] army.”
To his brother-in-law, the loquacious Sherman observes:
“Looking to the Past year I feel some what amazed to find how truly we have acted on the real strategic points—Entre nous Luck has favored us, and considerable mismanagement on the part of the Enemy, but on the whole our whole campaign will bear examination.
As a nation however we must not commit the Fatal blunder of Supposing the war over. Our Enemy has a large force in the Field. . . . if we slumber, the tide will again turn against us.”August 5, 1863
Recuperating in spirit as well as body, Georgian Irby Scott describes the activity and current conditions of his camp at Orange Court House, in Virginia, to his mother:
“We are all getting on as well as we could expect plenty to eat and lying around in camps. The weather is extremely hot. I dont know that I ever felt warmer weather in Georgia or any where else than we have had here for the last week. . . . The iron horse has passed several times this morning and while I write I can hear his shrill voice in the distance. . . . Some of the boys are naping, others lazzing about and the rest are cooking. Some of them have been out and bought some vegetables they brought in the first roasting ears of corn I have seen.”
President Lincoln restates his position to General Nathaniel P. Banks on the issue of freedom, as “an antislavery man,” and the author of the emancipation proclamation:
“For my own part I think I shall not, in any event, retract the emancipation proclamation; nor, as executive, ever return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the acts of Congress.”August 6, 1863
The North observes as day of thanksgiving, while John S. Mosby’s men roam around Fairfax Court House, Va., causing consternation and reminding everyone that the war continues despite the dramatic developments of July.
The C.S.S. Alabama demonstrates her range by capturing a vessel off the coast of southern Africa.August 7, 1863
South Carolinian Tally Simpson puts the best spin on events of which he is capable, telling his sister from Virginia:
“I do believe Charleston will fall sooner or later, and it would not surprise me if several other of our important cities fell. But even this would not kill my hopes of final success. Under such circumstances we could concentrate our forces in some central position, gather all the strength imaginable, and then at the approach of the enemy, redouble our efforts and give him such a blow as will send him howling and limping back into his own territory.”
President Lincoln rejects Governor Seymour’s request for a suspension of conscription in New York on the grounds that, “time is too important. . . . We are contending with an enemy who, as I understand, drives every able bodied man he can reach, into his ranks, very much as a butcher drives bullocks into a slaughter-pen. No time is wasted, no argument is used. This produces an army which will soon turn upon our now victorious soldiers already in the field, if they shall not be sustained by recruits, as they should be.
My purpose is to be, in my action, just and constitutional; and yet practical, in performing the important duty, with which I am charged, of maintaining the unity, and the free principles of our common country.”August 8, 1863
Robert E. Lee is convinced that the Confederacy is better served if he resigns from his position atop the Army of Northern Virginia, pleading that an army must have confidence in its commander, and noting further his fragile health.August 9, 1863
Lincoln explains his views to U.S. Grant on a number of subjects, including the raising of black troops for the Union army:
“I believe it is a resource which, if vigorously applied now, will soon close the contest. It works doubly, weakening the enemy and strengthening us.”August 10, 1863
Union troops under Major General Frederick Steele are under way from Helena, Arkansas, in the direction of Little Rock.August 11, 1863
Jefferson Davis sends a warm reply to General Lee concerning the state of the nation and Lee’s continuing role in its struggle for independence after the latter’s request to be relieved of his duties:
“But suppose, my dear friend, that I were to admit, with all their implications, the points which you present, where am I to find that new commander who is to possess the greater ability which you believe to be required?
To ask me to substitute you by some one in my judgment more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army, or of the reflecting men of the country, is to demand an impossibility.”
Diarist Emma Holmes observes of the martial state of affairs in Charleston:
“The enemy are as busy at their batteries as we at ours, & an artillery duel is of daily or nightly occurrence generally four or five of our men being killed or wounded. Our men must suffer very much at Fort Wagner, not only from the intense heat and want of good water & plenty of it, but from being obliged to be shut up most of the time in the suffocating bombproofs while shot and shell are rained down upon them. . . . Pinckney Lowndes, speaking in his usual flippant style, said if he thought ‘hell was half as hot and dreadful as Fort Wagner, he would try to be good.’”
Rumors swirl in the Southwest of possibilities of diplomatic overtures for the Confederacy, but fail to convince Henry King that they hold much promise even if found to be true:
“News to the effect that France & Spain have recognized the independence of the Confederate States. Some are exulting over the news, but I should like to know the virtue there is in the simple act of recognition uncoupled with any direct interposition. True, recognition is the first step, but if it benefit us, something must follow quickly & purposefully, for ours is a desperate case.”August 12, 1863
Abraham Lincoln responds affably, but firmly to John McClernand in relationship to that general’s desire for a command after having been relieved by U.S. Grant during the Vicksburg Campaign. The president expresses appreciation for his subordinate’s loyal service, but explains that there is no opportunity open for the moment and that reinstatement is out of the question.August 13, 1863
A chaplain cannot find much in the way of charity to offer in pleading with President Davis to rid the Confederacy of “drones and pigmies” such as John Pemberton and Theophilus Holmes, whom he believes are responsible for the many disasters that have “befallen us in the West.”
Confederate secretary of the navy Stephen Mallory continues to work on finding vessels in sufficient number to employ the individuals who are available to man them. The able agent, James D. Bulloch is at work on the problem in Europe, but facing many challenges.August 14, 1863
General George Meade meets with President Lincoln and cabinet officials to report on the late campaign in Pennsylvania and lay out a plan for going forward against Robert E. Lee in Virginia.
In his Maryland prison, J.E. Dooley notes in his journal:
“Doctor Mayo of Richmond and of our brigade comes in to visit us; he was left behind for the purpose of taking care of the wounded at Gettysburg, but the Yankees have seized him and hold him as a prisoner.”August 16, 1863
Union armies are on the move in Tennessee. Lincoln has recently reminded William Rosecrans that he missed an opportunity for movement while the Confederates remained focused on the Mississippi, but that the general is expected to make an effort nonetheless.
Henry King is still concerned that recent developments are having a deleterious, if not fatal, effect on the morale of his countrymen:
“Confidence in the stability of the Confederacy is failing fast, & unless something is done soon to restore confidence, I see no chance for us. Citizens & soldiers, as far as I can learn, are losing confidence—the great pillars of the Confederacy are shaken to their centers.”August 17, 1863
Emma Holmes is prepared to depart from Charleston for Camden, experiencing the mixed feelings caused by wartime travails and spectacles. It is almost as if the opposing forces have decided to mark the occasion with a display of their own:
“Today the bombardment was really terrific. There was not a moment’s cessation of the daily, heavy roar or the concussion from our own mortar batteries, which made every window rattle. We only remarked [about] it, but continued our packing quietly. . . . For, all the Monitors, six or eight I think, the [New] Ironsides, and a number of wooden frigates had been all morning trying to reduce Fort Sumter to ruins as yet without doing any serious damage, though the land batteries, with their 200 pound Parrott siege guns, had most accurate range. Though no breach had yet been effected, still they made the bricks and sand fly very freely on the southwest face, and it was feared no masonry could stand the mere weight and force of such tremendous missiles. . . . Sumter is so identified with us and our cause that it will be like tearing out our heart-strings should it fall.”
Stories of Northern atrocities against Southern civilians cause Holmes to wax eloquent regarding her beloved city and its own people should the fortunes of war turn against them:
“Humanity sickens at their demonical brutality & far better would it be for South Carolina to become a wilderness and desolation, one vast sepulcher & heap of smoking ruins, than to be cursed for one brief moment with their power to wreak evil.”
From his post “Resting on a fense, three miles East of Pelham Tenn.” Emerson Opdycke pauses to write his wife a letter and speculates on the campaigning to come: “Broke camp yesterday A.M. It rained again, and the roads are awful, but [we] will go forward. Dont know where we are going, perhaps to Atlanta. Good for Atlanta! I want to move on and crush the rebellion this year! We think there is no probability of a fight, as the Rebs are in ‘running order.’”August 18, 1863
Union shelling of Confederate positions at Charleston continues.
President Lincoln tests the new Spencer repeating rifle for accuracy and is pleased with the results.August 19, 1863
Union cavalry under William W. Averell target salt works in West Virginia.August 20, 1863
Colonel Opdycke continues his march through Tennessee, straining to keep his command moving while occasionally enjoying the local bounty that comes their way:
“We are twenty-five miles from Chattanooga, half way between Jasper & Altamonte, on the banks of the Sequatchie river, a little stream which runs through a rich little valley of its own name. Vegtables and fruit are abundant; one Secesh woman has four hundred acres of ripening peaches, they are very large and excellent, and every soldier has all he wants of them.”
Colorful Union colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson is on the move in Arizona Territory, while the pro-Southern guerrilla William Clarke Quantrill is closing on Lawrence, Kansas, with his mind set on retribution.August 21, 1863
Quantrill’s raiders hit Lawrence, leaving death and destruction in their wake. The town’s connection with antislavery elements before and during the war present the attackers with an attractive symbolic target. Among the victims are black Union recruits, as well as civilians. The “Lawrence Massacre” is a reminder of the volatility of the region.
Union artillery units fire shells at Chattanooga, Tennessee.
In South Carolina, while official wrangling occurs between Union general Quincy A. Gilmore and Confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard over the shelling of Charleston and the proper “usages of war,” a torpedo boat approaches the New Ironsides. A mishap with the device that had been meant to detonate and sink the Union vessel allows the crew to recognize and respond to the danger, forcing the Southern boat to withdraw.August 22, 1863
The defenders of Fort Sumter stubbornly continue to defy Union attempts to compel surrender, although the damage to the structure is significant.
Having carried out his raid on Lawrence, Quantrill is moving back toward Missouri. Kansas Governor Thomas Carney informs Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:
“Kansas is again invaded; Lawrence burned and plundered.”
John Dooley is transferred by rail from Fort McHenry along with other wounded Confederate officers for Johnson’s Island Prison in Ohio:
“And now we are off for the North! The whistle blows and we are whirled along catching the last glimpses of the sunny South as we rush over the borders of terror-stricken Maryland and enter the stolid regions of Pennsylvania. Every body of our part has his wound to shew and but few of them have healed up, and after the excitement of our start is over, we find it anything but pleasant to sit up straight in the cars and endure the dust & fatigue of travelling, in addition to the pain of our wounds.”August 23, 1863
Ulysses Grant responds to Lincoln’s message from earlier in the month regarding the recruitment of black troops:
“I have given the subject of arming the negro my hearty support. This, with the emancipation . . . is the heavyest blow yet given the Confederacy.”August 24, 1863
Governor Carney sends word to Washington City:
“Just returned from Lawrence. City in ashes. One-hundred and twenty-eight peaceable citizens now known to be murdered.”
“The Gray Ghost,” John Mosby remains active in his “Confederacy,” in northern Virginia.August 25, 1863
Union brigadier general Thomas Ewing issues General Orders No. 11 in the wake of William Quantrill’s activities in Kansas, requiring the forced removal of the inhabitants of four border counties in Missouri as a means of denying the guerrillas refuge and support.August 26, 1863
Former U.S. Secretary of War, governor of Virginia, and Confederate general John B. Floyd dies in Abingdon, Virginia.
To James G. Conkling Lincoln suggests that three possible courses offer themselves with regard to the conflict: suppress the rebellion, give up the Union, or find some compromise. The president prefers the first, refuses to consider the second, and observes of the third:
“I do not believe any compromise, embracing the maintenance of the Union is now possible. All I learn, leads to a directly opposite belief. The strength of the rebellion, is its military—its army. . . . In an effort at such compromise we should waste time, which the enemy would improve to our disadvantage; and that would be all.”
On the question of emancipation, he offers a position that reflects the realities of executive power and war, notes the influence of the recent declaration by General Grant on the matter of black military service, and demonstrates his awareness of human nature:
“You dislike the emancipation proclamation; and, perhaps, would have it retracted. You say it is unconstitutional—I think differently. I think the constitution invests its commander-in-chief, with the law of war, in time of war. The most that can be said, if so much, is, that slaves are property. Is there—has there ever been—any question that by the law of war, property, both of enemies and friends, may be taken when needed? Armies, the world over, destroy enemies’ property when they can not use it; and even destroy their own to keep it from the enemy. Civilized belligerents do all in their power to help themselves, or hurt the enemy, except a few things regarded as barbarous or cruel. Among the exceptions are the massacre of vanquished foes, and non-combatants, male and female.
But, the proclamation, as law, either is valid, or is not valid. If it is not valid, it needs no retraction. If it is valid, it can not be retracted, any more than the dead can be brought to life.”
“There was more than a year and a half of trial to suppress the rebellion before the proclamation [was] issued, the last one hundred days of which passed under an explicit notice that it was coming, unless averted by those in revolt, returning to their allegiance. . . . I know as fully as one can know the opinion of others, that some of the commanders of our armies in the field who have given us our most important successes, believe the emancipation policy, and the use of colored troops, constitute the heaviest blow yet dealt to the rebellion.”
“But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do any thing for us, if we will do nothing for them? They they stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive—even the promise of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept.”
These matters addressed, Lincoln allows a moment of positive reflection:
“The signs look better. The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.”August 27, 1863
Regarding Quantrill’s raiders, Thomas Ewing reports to his superior, General Schofield:
“No prisoners have been taken, and none will be.”
But the attackers have proven elusive:
“Quantrill’s men are scattered in their fastnesses throughout the border counties, and are still being hunted by all available troops from all parts of the district.”
Sherman writes sympathetically to his old colleague, Lew Wallace, still sidelined after the Shiloh Campaign:
“I assure you that I regret exceedingly that General Grant had not carried with him throughout his entire campaign the Generals with which he opened it, and [Fort] Donelson was as important a beginning as the Capture of Vicksburg the End of the one Great Design.”
“We have all made mistakes and Should be generous to each other. Some men possess one quality, others another, but all can be made to Subserve a great whole. General Grant possess in an eminent degree the peculiar & high attribute of using various men to produce a Common result, and now that his Character is well established we can easily subordinate ourselves to him with the absolute assurance of serving the Common Cause of our Country.”August 29, 1863
In another bow to innovation, the Confederates have brought a submarine, initially called, Fish Boat, but ultimately named for its creator, Horace L. Hunley, from Mobile, Alabama to Charleston. But while operating with volunteers under Lieutenant John A. Payne, the craft sinks, claiming five members of its own crew in the accident.August 30, 1863
War Clerk Jones notes one silver lining for the South:
“Some good news may be anticipated from the furious and universal outcry in the Confederate States against the extortioners and speculators in food and fuel.”August 31, 1863
Lincoln assures Rosecrans that he retains his confidence:
“I repeat that my appreciation of you has not abated. I can never forget, whilst I remember anything, that about the end of last year, and the beginning of this, you gave us a hard earned victory which, had there been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over.”
September 1863September 1, 1863
Fort Smith, Arkansas, falls to Federals under Brigadier General James Blunt.September 2, 1863
Major General Ambrose Burnside’s troops enter Knoxville, Tennessee.
President Lincoln responds to a query from Salmon P. Chase concerning applying the edicts of the Emancipation Proclamation to the areas of Virginia and Louisiana exempted at the time of its issuance:
“The original proclamation has no constitutional or legal justification, except as a military measure. The exemptions were made because the military necessity did not apply to the exempted locations. Nor does that necessity apply to them now any more than it did then. If I take the step I must not do so, without the argument of military necessity. . . . Could it fail to be perceived that without any further stretch, I might do the same in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri; and even change any law in any state? Would not many of our own friends shrink away appalled? Would it not lose us the elections, and with them, the very cause we seek to advance?”
William T. Sherman responds to calls from friends and associates of General Don Carlos Buell for materials that can be used to aid in that general’s behalf at investigations into his service. The Ohioan professes “great personal and official respect and will do all I can, to secure to him the respect of his Fellow Soldiers and Fellow men,” but considers the first necessity to be to finish the war. “The time for history is, after the end is attained. . . . When War is over, we may have a Century, in which to scramble for personal fame. Current events are still too absorbing for any patriot to stop to discuss the Past. Let us all go on to secure the object of the War, save the Ship of State, before we undertake to explain, how it was done, or who did it.”September 3, 1863
From the area of Jasper, Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke writes his wife:
“Tell Tine papa is so busy chasing the rebels, he cannot give himself the pleasure of going home this ‘peach time’, but he hopes to before next year’s peaches ripen.”
A Union patrol of Iowa cavalry, part of a larger expedition under Brigadier General Alfred Sully, rides into a camp of several thousand Dakotas, Lakotas and others. A stand-off occurs as the untested soldiers find themselves cut off from escape. One of the trapped men will recall: “we couldn’t retreat if we could, nor would if we could.” In the meantime, hesitant negotiations open, followed by a period of uneasy silence, while the opposing forces size each other up and weigh their options.
Near the end of the day, the 2nd Nebraska Cavalry arrives to reinforce their comrades. In the ensuing battle, some of the Indians manage to elude their opponents in the darkness, but many others are not as fortunate, perishing or becoming captives. Casualties in the Battle of Whitestone Hill amount to 22 killed and 38 wounded for the U.S. forces and at least 200 killed and 150 captured among their adversaries.September 4, 1863
The streets of Mobile, Alabama, erupt in a bread riot.
Politics is present in the Army of the Potomac as much as in any command, as is wrangling for promotions. From the area of Kelly’s ford, Virginia, Brigadier General Alpheus Williams tells his daughter of gratifying efforts on his behalf and his opinions of his chief competitor for advancement:
“Such a fellow as [Samuel W.]Crawford, who skulked at Antietam and knows no more of military [matters] than that piebald dog I used to own, will be promoted before I am, simply because he has the impudence and falsehood of the devil, knows well the Secretary of War, is from Pennsylvania, and gives great dinners which he never pays for! He got a small puncture—self-inflicted, I think. . . at Antietam. . . . He has recently got assigned to the Pennsylvania reserves and had a big time presenting a sword to Gen. Meade, for his own glorification. These are the fellows that get promotion.”September 5, 1863
The Confederates have long depended upon British shipyards to produce the craft Southern facilities cannot. Thanks to the untiring efforts of Georgian James D. Bulloch, the Birkenhead firm of John Laird & Sons has constructed two powerful twin-turreted rams, destined for delivery into his nation’s hands. The subterfuge includes transfer to French ownership to elude detection before passing into the Confederacy’s registry as North Carolina and Mississippi. But, a strong stance by the diligent U.S. ambassador Charles Francis Adams now has the effect of keeping the Laird Rams from reaching their adversaries.
Of the state of panic among citizens in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee at the threat of Union incursions into the region, Edward O. Guerrant concludes:
“’Twould be a good thing if every man in the Confederacy had six month’s experience as a soldier. The report of an enemy unnerves a civilian; tho’ it be no evidence of a want of courage. War hardens a man to sudden fear & trepidation.”September 6, 1863
By morning, the Confederates have evacuated forts Wagner and Gregg, leaving heavily-contested Morris Island in the hands of the Federals.
In Richmond, life approximates peacetime for some and the changes of wartime for others. Self-described Louisiana “exile” Henri Garidel, notes the number of individuals in Capitol Square sitting in the shade on a day that is already warming rapidly. Following an afternoon nap, he returns with some peaches and biscuits for supper.
“I went like a poor devil to Capitol Square, I sat down on a bench, and there I ate my dinner. I had seen poor unfortunates do this sometimes in New Orleans, and I used to pity them with all my heart. I never thought that on 6 September 1863 I would be doing the same. After my dinner I took a walk around the square to help me digest that great dinner.”
Major General Sam Jones communicates with Virginia governor John Letcher and his commander at Saltville to undertake defensive works for the facilities using impressed slave labor.
In the Trans-Mississippi, Confederate brigadier general Lucius M. Walker suffers a mortal wound at the hands of his comrade Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke in a duel. Marmaduke had accused Walker of cowardice and the aggrieved general responded as Southern honor dictated to clear his name of the imputation.September 7, 1863
Union troops move in to Fort Wagner as they continue to attempt to tighten the grip on Charleston and its defenders.
One of General Meade’s staffers, Theodore Lyman, records his impressions of the blue-coated warriors who pass on review before a retinue of officers, with the hint that despite their quite respectable service, the veterans lack the bearing or demeanor of their counterparts in other spheres:
“It is clear to me that the nature of the American is such that some modifications must take place in the way of treating him as a soldier. Here were men who have performed feats in marching and in fighting, on a par with the best armies of the world; but each man looked just as before he was a soldier, only browner and more trained.”
President Davis sends correspondence to Joseph E. Johnston that reveals the prickly state of their relationship at this stage of the war and the degree to which miscommunication and bruised egos continue to complicate matters for them.September 8, 1863
Partially in response to French actions in Mexico and to place additional pressure on the Confederates in Texas, Major General Nathaniel P. Banks plans a campaign at the mouth of the Sabine River. Troops under Major General William B. Franklin are to proceed against Confederate positions guarding the approach to Sabine City, Texas. Four Union gunboats and transports with 5,000 infantry attempt the passage and a landing. Contesting this operation with a small number of troops, Lieutenant Richard W. “Dick” Dowling, employs his men and resources effectively. With stakes placed to assist the accuracy of the Southern tubes, rounds smash into the Sachem and disable her. By the time the fighting subsides, the Clifton, is also out of commission, surrendered by Lieutenant Frederick Crocker of the navy. The operation has clearly floundered, at a cost of the two vessels and 550 U.S. casualties, while producing none in the ranks of their opponents. The defense of Sabine Pass produces a much-needed bolster to Confederate morale.
The news is good for the South in Tennessee, as well, where, at Limestone Bridge, southwest of Jonesboro, Confederates under Brigadier General Alfred Jackson capture 350 defenders of a blockhouse, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes.September 9, 1863
Federal forces under Major General Thomas L. Crittenden enter Chattanooga as the defenders withdraw rather than risk being isolated and trapped there, while the division of Major General James S. Negley drops down from Lookout Mountain near Chickamauga Creek in Georgia. Further to the south, the corps of Major General Alexander M. McCook ventures through terrain that will make cooperation difficult if either of the other Union corps require assistance. Braxton Bragg sees an opportunity to turn on the opponents that have deviled him out of Middle Tennessee, while the elements he plans to threaten remain separated from each other.
Henri Garidel notes the arrival of troops in the city for transit “to the West.” Those who are in Virginia are finally beginning to think about us.”September 10, 1863
Little Rock, Arkansas, falls to Union troops as Major General Sterling Price evacuates his 7,700 men in the face 12,000 advancing Federals under Major General Frederick Steele. The Arkansas state government has likewise departed. Having been released from his arrest for the fatal wounding of General Walker, General Marmaduke uses his cavalry command to delay the Union approach at Bayou Fourche to the east of the city. The casualties for both sides amount to approximately 72 Union and 64 Confederate combatants.
As part of his on-going duties as chief executive, Abraham Lincoln receives and considers numerous requests for intervention on his part. Increasingly prone to ask for consideration in many cases, he diplomatically rejects others, including one to bring relief to a man who protests his innocence of the charge of selling liquor to soldiers.
“I can not listen to a man’s own story, unsupported by any evidence, who has been convicted of violating the law; because that would put an end to all law.”September 11, 1863
Again with an eye toward upcoming elections, Lincoln tells Governor Andrew Johnson that the moment has arrived for establishing a loyal government in Tennessee:
“All Tennessee is now clear of armed insurrectionists. You need not to be reminded that it is in the nick of time for re-inaugerating a loyal State government. Not a moment should be lost.”
“It is something on the question of time, to remember that it can not be known who is next to occupy the position I now hold, nor what he will do.”September 12, 1863
Ohio colonel Opdycke is in the vicinity of “Gordon’s Mills,” near LaFayette, Georgia, when he pauses to send his wife a note that reflects the optimism of a successful campaign of maneuver and more favorable weather:
“This energy and activity suits me. . . . This is a grand time for military operations—roads good—that is dry—and abundance of corn forage wherever we go; the rebels are dispirited and fleeing and our triumph seems sure.”
The U.S. vice consul at Bermuda reports the arrival of USS Fort Jackson and the influence the appearance has on Confederate shipping concerns:
“Since this vessel has made her appearance in these waters, I understand the route of several of the ‘Runners’ has been altered for Nassau.”September 13, 1863
Having lost an earlier opportunity to strike a portion of the Union army before it can consolidate, Bragg issues orders to Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk to make another effort, this time at Crittenden’s Corps. Polk’s hesitation prevents Bragg from achieving the blow he had sought.
War Clerk John B. Jones writes from the Confederate capital:
“We have reports of the evacuation of Cumberland Gap. This was to be looked for, when the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad was suffered to fall into the enemy’s hands. When will this year’s calamities end?”
Staff officer Theodore Lyman attaches himself to advancing cavalry to experience a campaign in the field. Meade has invited the officer to “see a shindy.” In the course of “slipping and sliding, in the red mud,” Lyman encounters George Armstrong Custer:
“Meanwhile Gen. Custer, having got round on the left, made a brilliant dash at three guns and took them, with their caissons, his horse being shot under him. All of which we saw from the hill with great advantage. . . . Custer is a sight to behold, looking like a crazy circus rider! He has a faded velvet suit, with tarnished lace trimmings, a little gray felt hat and long boots. His head is garnished with short flaxen curls, and he has a devil-may-care blue eye, very appropriate to his style.”September 14, 1863
In Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee, Major General Sam Jones reports the shifting of resources and urges his contacts at Marion, Wytheville and Abingdon, Virginia to prepare local home guards for action.September 15, 1863
John B. Jones comments on prospects for Confederate trade and assistance from abroad:
“If we can keep Wilmington, we can send out cotton and bring in supplies without limit.”
President Lincoln releases a proclamation on the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in areas where the necessity exists and for the duration of the “rebellion” or a subsequent modification or revocation of the order.September 16, 1863
General Sherman responds to a letter from West Point professor Dennis Hart Mahan. He notes the closeness of the graduates of the Military Academy for each other and expresses his appreciation Mahan had sent him of the recent campaigning in Mississippi:
“Your high commendation of our recent campaign of Vicksburg is so handsome, and coming from so high a source, I will send it to General Grant, for whom I entertain not only a respect but an affection. I know he will feel in it a gleam of satisfaction and pleasure, second only to that, which he experienced, when you signed his Diploma and turned him loose upon the mystery of a world, vain with the beliefs, that his education was done, whereas it was only begun.”September 17, 1863
From Richmond, ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas assesses developments elsewhere in the embattled Confederacy:
“Bragg has shown his usual readiness for retreating, & has retreated us out of the whole of East Tenn., Rosecrans being in possession of Chattanooga, & Burnside of Knoxville, without the pulling of a trigger. Two thousand men and guns & ammunition have also been given away at Cumberland Gap, where a drunken Brigadier named Frazer commanded.”
Sherman indicates his increasing desire to wage the harshest war necessary to conclude the contest in the Union’s favor:
“I would make this War as severe as possible and make no Symptoms of tire, till the South begs for mercy. . . .”September 18, 1863
Fighting opens along Chickamauga Creek at Reed’s and Alexander’s bridges, northeast of Lee and Gordon’s Mill as probing forces encounter each other. Union forces under Colonel John T. Wilder have the advantage if armament: seven-shot Spencer repeating rifles, while the troops of Brigadier General Robert H.G. Minty, block the approaches to Reed’s Bridge. Eventually, Confederates under Brigadier General Bushrod R. Johnson shove the stubborn blue-coated horsemen back and this crossing enables these men to flank Wilder’s out of their positions as well.September 19, 1863
As the opposing forces shift and search for enemy formations, the skirmishing at Chickamauga continues and threatens to flare into a full-blown engagement. Union general George Thomas sends men to capture or dislodge what he believes to be an isolated unit. Clashing with cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Union approach alerts Bragg and spurs him to commit more of his own men. Major Generals William H.T. Walker and Ben Frank Cheatham expand the scope of the fighting near the Brock Farm\, as Thomas feeds additional troops to counter their efforts.
The escalating combat moves toward the Union center and left, with the Federals holding the LaFayette Road and fighting swirling around the farms and residences of John Kelly, the Brothertons and the Viniards. Coming on the heels of a powerful thrust by Confederate major general Alexander P. Stewart that has begun to wane, near twilight, major general Patrick Cleburne launches an assault that darkness and exhaustion limit.
By afternoon, James Longstreet is in the vicinity of the fighting, having arrived with his men from Virginia. It will be well into the night before he can locate his new chief, but the reinforcements are welcome additions and Bragg acts promptly to reorganize his command in the face of the enemy into two wings, one of which will be under Longstreet, with the other under Leonidas Polk.
In his reminiscence of the battle, John King of the 92nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry explains:
“’No man ever saw all of a battle,’ is a saying that every officer and soldier knows to be true.”
In the course of the fighting, King finds himself in advance of his own lines as an approaching Confederate flag-bearer diverts his attention temporarily:
“I looked up and saw the regiment almost in line of battle and nearly ready to fire, and I standing between the two lines. I started back on a run, but before I could reach the regiment the whole line opened fire on the rebels and I was directly in front of the Spencer rifle companies, whose volleys never ceased. . . . Sure death stared me in the face, and for the first time in my life I believed my time had come and that I would never see another sunset. I was between two fires, two lines of battle, each firing with a[ll] possible speed, and neither line could be possibly reached before I would be riddled with bullets. In times of imminent danger a man’s mind is a thousand times more active and accurate than under ordinary circumstances. There was one chance that I might escape immediate destruction, and that was to throw myself flat upon the ground with head towards one line and heels towards the other. This would expose the least possible portion of the body to either line. Quicker than a flash I was in the position described.”
King survives the encounter as the lines shift and rises to race to his comrades unscathed:
“I jumped and ran for my position in the ranks as fast as my legs could carry me, having learned the important lesson that the safest place for a soldier is in the ranks and to fight when the ranks fight, retreat when the ranks retreat, and charge when the ranks charge.”
Union colonel John W. Foster is ranging with 1,500 cavalry near Bristol on the Virginia-Tennessee border, destroying what he can of bridges and railroad facilities in the region.September 20, 1863
Braxton Bragg hopes to continue the battle at Chickamauga in the early morning hours of “daydawn,” but delays and miscommunication plague his efforts. Nevertheless, the opposing sides are once more fully engulfed by mid-morning, with Polk’s men attacking Thomas’s on the Union left. Major General John C. Breckinridge’s troops take stiff casualties, including a gray-clad brother-in-law of Mary Todd Lincoln, named Benjamin Hardin Helm.
To the south, Longstreet prepares to unleash John Bell Hood’s Texans. Union brigadier general Thomas J. Wood, a Kentuckian, who had raised Rosecrans’ ire for not responding immediately to previous orders, receives instructions to move his men in closer conjunction with other units. Wood obeys just as Hood’s Texans careen into his position that he has vacated into the Dyer Field and the Union line experiences a fatal fracture. Rosecrans, McCook and Crittenden find themselves swept from the field on a blue tide that will not abate until it reaches Chattanooga.
In the meantime, Thomas continues to hold his grip on the ground at Snodgrass Hill and along Horseshoe Ridge. Repeated, but piece-meal Southern assaults fail to drive Thomas from his ground. The timely arrival of reinforcements assist as well, enabling the Union troops finally to disengage in the gathering darkness, having bought enough time for a defense of Chattanooga to be made all the more viable. The Virginian, George Thomas, emerges from the harsh combat with an enduring nickname as the “Rock of Chickamauga” for his stout defense.
Chickamauga, popularly known to be translated from an Indian description as the “River of Death” has exacted a terrible human toll of its participants: 16,170 dead, wounded, captured or missing Federals and 18,454 Confederates.
Henri Garidel spends the afternoon in Richmond Hollywood Cemetery, taking special pains to visit the graves of Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler:
“I couldn’t possibly describe the beauty of this spot. It must be seen to be believed. From up there you have the most beautiful panorama of the whole city. It is really spectacularly beautiful. . . . After having seen everything, we went down to the banks of the James River, which flows at the foot of the hill.”
Looking back at the period he has been away from the Confederate capital, Robert G.H. Kean recovers the “lost thread of events” for his dairy. Speculation and rumor abound, including the possibility that President Davis will assume a command in the field:
“Success would be all the more important if it restored to him the confidence and good will of the country, which he has deplorably lost in some way. Failure would destroy his administration and perhaps the Confederacy.”
Kean is also upset at the loss of a key position on the border of far southwestern Virginia that has often been likened to the stout geographical feature, Gibraltar, in Europe:
“The surrender of Cumberland Gap seems the most atrocious piece of infidelity and cowardice that has yet disgraced our arms.”
Having left his camp at Kelly’s Ford, Alpheus Williams takes a moment on his birthday to inform his daughter of his new location and recent change of circumstances:
“I pitched my tents in the front yard of a dilapidated F.F.V. [First Family of Virginia], who seemed very glad to have me about as a protector. He had a very smart and chatty daughter, to whom some of my staff made themselves very agreeable. I did not make her acquaintance, having absolutely lost all charms for maid or widow.”
According to staff officer Theodore Lyman, General Meade is feeling the pressure of command. Offering confidential asides that he would rather be elsewhere, Meade also shares official correspondence with his aide, including messages from Henry Halleck that the latter will to interfere in the subordinate’s decisions and from President Lincoln that Meade, “must remember that Lee’s army, not Richmond was the object of his campaign!”
John Foster’s blue-coated horsemen approach Zollicoffer in East Tennessee, but a Confederate brigade bars the way at Beaver Creek.September 21, 1863
Thomas pulls back toward Chattanooga.
In the aftermath of the fighting in Georgia, Emerson Opdycke scribbles a note to his wife, Lucy:
“I am safely through two days fighting. Let us give thanks to the All Father. . . . I was the only regimental officer in the Division, who kept [on] his horse: others said to me ‘Col. O. you must bear a charmed life.”
President Lincoln makes a concerted effort to bolster General Rosecrans after the defeat at Chickamauga:
“Be of good cheer. We have unabated confidence in you, and in your soldiers and officers.”September 22, 1863
Colonel Foster contests Confederate troops at Blountville, Tennessee, driving the defenders from the town, but making little additional progress.September 23, 1863
Never at a loss for an opinion, Theodore Lyman notes that his superior, General Meade has left for Washington for consultations. “Oh, dear, dear! Geniuses do not grow on every bush; and I know not when I have been so struck with it as here in the army.”
Lincoln and his Cabinet meet to discuss the future of General Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland, deciding to forward troops from the Army of the Potomac under “Fighting Joe” Hooker to reinforce their comrades in Tennessee.
Josiah Gorgas expresses the mixed emotions attendant with the hard fighting at Chickamauga:
“Our joy is damped by the loss of Gen. Hood, who died under the operation of amputating his leg. He left here only two weeks ago scarcely able to manage his wounded arm. His loss is a severe one. Second only to that of Jackson. Besides Hood we have lost [James] Deshler, [Benjamin Hardin] Helm,, & a General [Preston] Smith—and heroes of less note—too many, too many.”
When a New Yorker takes a swipe at George Thomas as a protégé of Don Carlos Buell who has allegedly failed to allow Rosecrans to succeed as commander of the Army of the Cumberland, Lincoln rebuffs the argument decisively:
“I hasten to say that in the State of information we have here, nothing could be more ungracious than to indulge any suspicion towards Gen. Thomas. It is doubtful whether his heroism and skill exhibited last sunday afternoon, has ever been surpassed in the world.”September 24, 1863
From his post outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Milton Barrett of the Eighteenth Georgia infantry attempts to keep his brother and sister informed of his current status:
“I seit my self behind a bluff to pertect me from the Yankee bums that have bin a whirling a round us in grand stile this morning.
I have bin on the front line two days a poping a way. . . .”
Barrett continues to write in the trying conditions, until circumstances change dramatically:
“the Yankees is advancen. i must lay down my pen and go to shooting.”
In the Trans-Mississippi, Henry King has heard rumors of international developments so often that he has come to dismiss them as not only inaccurate, but dangerous:
“Current news again that France & Spain have recognized our independence. In my judgment, we have heard the news too often for our best interests. But, in our drowning condition, we seize at whatever presents itself, though it be a phantom.”September 25, 1863
Milton Barrett returns to his writing instrument after laying aside his weapon for a time to describe the “heavy crumishing” that had occurred.
“every thing is quite this morning, our line of Battle have move back a bout one mile and [we] ar a fortifying. . . . Bragg is not the genral that Lee is and the western army cant fight like the virginia army. if genral Lee was hear he would have had the yankees drove out of Tennessee.”
From South Carolina, Emma Holmes has watched developments in Charleston while obtaining reports on the battle of Chickamauga:
“The Yankee army was composed of the best fighting materials, far different from those that generally fight in Va., and they were commanded by one of their best and wiliest generals, Rosencrans, whom they considered invincible—while Bragg had often fallen back before them that they looked down upon him . . . he has been compelled since last January to play a grand game of chess, constantly falling back and maneuvering to conceal his weakness, till his own men as well as the majority of other people, unable to understand his movements, were murmuring against him. . . . They say our troops never fought better, a kind of rivalry between Bragg’s original army and Longstreet’s corps having only added fuel to the flame.”
In the distant border region of Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee, Ned Guerrant has learned of the recent engagement at Chickamauga:
“It is glorious news. It makes a fellow feel taller, stouter, fatter, better, lighter, heartier, saucier, braver, kinder, richer, and everything good & great. Hurra for hurra!! and Bragg. Well done old Bragg. I’ll try & let ‘by gones be by gones’. I’ll Hate you for leaving Kentucky [the previous year], & Love you for whipping ‘Old Rosy’.
This great success comes like a cool fountain to a thirsty traveler.”September 26, 1863
James Longstreet informs Secretary of War James Seddon of recent developments and urges orders from the war department that will address these matters:
“On the 20th instant, after a very severe battle, we gained a complete and glorious victory—the most complete victory of the war except, perhaps, the first Manassas.”
Since that time, little had been accomplished, in the general’s view.
“To express my convictions in a few words, our chief has done but one thing that he ought to have done since I joined this army. That was to order the attack of the 20th. All other things that he has done he ought not to have done. I am convinced that nothing but the hand of God can save us or help us as long as we have our present commander.
Now to our wants. Can’t you send us General Lee? The army in Virginia can operate defensively, while our operations here should be offensive—until we have recovered Tennessee, at all events. We need some such great mind as General Lee’s (nothing more) to accomplish this.”
Josiah Gorgas records the news as updated from the front:
“Hood is not dead but has had his leg amputated & his condition was critical. Bragg telegraphs that he has taken 7000 prisoners, 36 pieces of artillery 15,000 small arms and a great many standards. The battle of Chickamauga will therefore rank as a great victory in the history of this great war. As however we do not hear that Rosecrans has abandoned Chattanooga the fruits of so great a victory are not yet reaped, and people are still in a state of anxious suspense, fearing that all this bloodshed may have been in vain, and that Tennessee may after all not be recovered.”
Buffeted by the rumors and unwelcome developments that have invaded his world, William Henry King has begun to despair, not only of success for the Confederacy, but also for the state of his fellow countrymen in what he sees occurring, as reflected by the popular phrase, “Rich man’s war, Poor man’s fight”:
“I believe we are at last overpowered, & all of our efforts will prove unavailing. Our people have become so corrupt, that they gladly seize the opportunity of speculating on the necessities of helpless women & children. Things are changed so much that I have become measurably indifferent as to which party triumphs. The war is not what it was when it commenced. At first, it was, on our part, a war for equal rights; now it is a war for the aggrandizement of a certain few at the expense of the masses. . . . Surely we are drifting—drifting to irretrievable ruin.September 27, 1863
Robert Kean remarks on the losses among the officer ranks, although he notes that John Bell Hood was not dead, as originally thought:
“General Hood, reported killed, has lost a leg above the middle of the thigh, and is reported as doing well. Our best men fall in every battle. We shall soon have none but the scrubs of West Point left in high command.”
From his post at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, surgeon John Bennitt of the 19th Michigan, relates to his wife the price of the war, even at his location distant from the primary fields of action:
“The man whose legs I amputated four days ago is doing well, he may recover.—A lieutenant—was run over & killed a few miles north of here—He came here for me to bury.”September 28, 1863
Gorgas holds out hope for glad tidings from abroad:
“The iron clads from England are soon expected.”
Now ensconced in the lines at Chattanooga, Colonel Opdycke has time for a longer post-mortem of the recent battle and campaign developments:
“[General George] Thomas was serene amidst the storm, and caused me to think of [George] Washington: when Major and Brigadier Generals were fleeing from the field, he was asked ‘Well, Thomas what do you think of it’ ‘We are pretty hard pressed’ he replied.
Although we have been chastised a little, yet the campaign is a success. Rosecrans was to clear Tennessee of rebels troops; but he was tempted to do more, and but for the cowardice of some of the officers, he would have put a period to the war in the West.”September 30, 1863
Major General Joseph Wheeler begins a cavalry raid against the Sequatchie Valley road that is the only supply route open in support of Rosecrans’ army in Chattanooga.
October 1863October 1, 1863
President Lincoln provides General John M. Schofield instructions as to how to proceed in the volatile, but ostensibly loyal, state of Missouri, including discretion to remove or suppress troublesome individuals and news organs that “may be working palpable injury to the Military in your charge.”
On the slavery question, Lincoln remains cognizant of the impact that disrupting the institution in a state that is not in rebellion might cause and continues to opt for a neutral stance for the time being: “Allow no part of the Military under your command, to be engaged in either returning fugitive slaves, or in forcing, or enticing slaves from their homes; and, so far as practicable, enforce the same forebearance upon the people.”
The President concludes: “To now restore peace, let the military obey orders; and those not of the military, leave each other alone; thus not breaking the peace themselves.”
Outside Chattanooga, the reckoning of the horrific bloodletting at Chickamauga is expressed in letters of condolence and grief. Thomas Tobin writes one such piece of sad correspondence to Harry Miller, concerning his cousin Tally Simpson:
“He was shot through the heart whilst gallantly pushing forward in the front rank of his company. Death is supposed to have been instantaneous.”
“It is almost useless, dear Harry, to tell you what a severe loss the company & service has sustained in the death of our dear Tally.”
“Allow me, dear Harry, to sympathize with you in the great loss you have sustained & let us pray that his soul has gone to Jesus.”
Inside Chattanooga, Emerson Opdycke is working to recover from the Union setback at Chickamauga. Despite enduring rain, he is pleased with the progression of affairs at home and abroad:
“Our defenses are constantly improving: two thirty two pound Parrotts were put in position in our fort to day: their range is from three to four miles. The Parrotts are probably the best guns in the world. . . . I entertain but little fear of foreign intervention; our power is too formidable, our genius for War too apparent. Selfishness rules Britannia.”
At Johnson’s Island, Ohio, Confederate prisoner of war John Dooley records a daring effort for freedom by some of his compatriots:
“At night several prisoners escape through [a] hole cut in the fence: long roll sounded & prisoners recaptured.”October 2, 1863
Federal troops under Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker are arriving at Bridgeport, Alabama, with reinforcements from Virginia to assist with operations around Chattanooga, Tennessee, which continues to be isolated from major sources of supply.October 3, 1863
In a dramatic demonstration of the perpetual nature of the Union in the midst of war, Abraham Lincoln issues a “Proclamation of Thanksgiving.”
“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.”
Ned Guerrant finds little that would mark the Union President’s proclamation in East Tennessee. “Our road led us through Blountville now a sad spectacle indeed, a smoky, smouldering monument of war’s desolation. More than half of the town was burned, including the C.H. & both hotels. Many of the remaining houses were torn & perforated with shot & shell from the Enemys guns. . . . The whole country exhibited the most melancholy evidence of the presence of our country’s foes, the fences all levelled, & fields laid waste.”
A personal loss comes to William T. Sherman when his son Willy dies of typhoid fever in Memphis. The tough-minded warrior will not easily forgive himself for exposing his child to the miasmas of the Mississippi.October 4, 1863
General Sherman takes a few moments to compose a letter of appreciation to the soldiers who had embraced his son, almost as a mascot:
“I cannot sleep to-night till I record an expression of the deep feelings of my heart to you, and to the Officers and Soldiers of the Battalion, for their kind behaviour to my poor child. . . . Consistent with a sense of duty to my profession and office, I could not leave my post, and sent for my family to come to me in that fatal climate, and in that sickly period of the year, and behold the result! The child who bore my name, and in whose future I reposed with more confidence than I did my own plans of life, now floats a mere corpse, seeking a grave in a distant land, with a weeping mother, brother, and sisters clustered around him.”October 5, 1863
The little Confederate torpedo boat David attacks the New Ironsides. Commander of the odd-shaped, but low-profiled craft, William T. Glassell, oversees the attachment and detonation of the explosive. A geyser of water and the tocsin of alarm ensues as crews of both vessels scramble to react to the sudden development. Loss of power from extinguished boiler fires appears to necessitate the abandonment of the boat, but two of the men manage to refire the boiler. Although the David succeeds in returning to Charleston, amidst the chaos and confusion, Glassell and one of his comrades fall into Union hands.
Joe Wheeler in Tennessee, Jo Shelby in Missouri and James R. Chalmers in Mississippi continue to wreak fear, as well as havoc, with fast-moving Confederate cavalry raids in their regions.
With a commission in hand for service as a second lieutenant with the Second Regiment of Infantry, Corps d’Afrique, Rufus Kinsley takes his leave of his duties in a hospital in New Orleans, but not without pointed observations about the actions of the local citizenry:
“I have learned to cherish the highest respect for a few of the ladies of New Orleans; but I am amazed when I think how very few. . . . When the ladies are appealed to [care for Union wounded and ill], ‘the hospital is not a fit place for ladies to visit.’ The next day, perhaps, the Confederate wounded are brought in, and immediately the hospitals are besieged by thousands of the dear creatures, loyal and true, ready to move heaven and earth to evince their sympathy for suffering humanity, but they never forget to inquire [only] for the wards occupied by the Confederates.”October 6, 1863
Sherman continues to endure pangs of regret and sadness, telling his grieving spouse: “I have got up early this morning to Steal a short period in which to write to you but I can hardly trust myself. Sleeping—waking—everywheres I see Poor Little Willy. His face & form are as deeply imprinted on my memory as were deepseated the hopes I had in his Future. Why oh Why should that child be taken from us? leaving us full of trembling & reproaches. Though I know we did all human beings could do to arrest the ebbing tide of Life, still I will always deplore my want of judgment in taking my family to so fatal a climate at so critical period of the year. . . .
But I must not dwell so much on it. I will try and make Poor Willys memory the cure for the defects which have sullied my character[.]”October 7, 1863
At Morris Island, South Carolina, Ohioan Alvin Coe Voris is starting to return to his earlier gusto, informing his wife:
“I am making general reforms in my Regiment. Till within a week I did not feel able to do much, but I feel quite well and have been exercising my peculiar talent, scolding at a great rate for a few days. . . . I have entirely overhauled the camp, leveled off the streets, taken down the tents to be placed in line & with uniformity, and on the whole am making a fine camp. Men and Officers are verry much like children. They need constant watching. . . . You ought to see me knock things along.”October 8, 1863
Jefferson Davis reaches Atlanta, Georgia, on a western tour.
A frustrated Colonel Voris passes along a “good joke” aimed at Admiral Dahlgren, which features “the commissary sergeant, who deals out the fresh beef for Officers of the post. Admiral D ordered five lbs fresh beef & five pounds tripe. The sergeant struck out the tripe and inserted pluck, saying that even that small quantity would be of great advantage to this navy.” Voris concludes caustically, “I am satisfied that Charleston would today have been in our possession had the navy done what it was capable of doing. They are so afraid of losing a vessel that they would rather see a Brigade of infantry go to destruction than lose one of their boats.”October 9, 1863
Robert E. Lee hopes to restore the momentum in Virginia for his army by moving a portion of his command against George Gordon Meade in the opening phase of what becomes known as the Bristoe Campaign.
President Davis passes through Marietta on his journey northward to consult with Braxton Bragg and assess the situation with the Army of Tennessee and the problematic leadership that oversees it.
Wheeler recrosses the Tennessee River, having inflicted some damage, but under duress from pursuing Union forces.
General Ambrose Burnside and his IX Corps approaches Bull’s Gap from Knoxville to join up with troops already located at nearby Blue Springs. The Union troops face a much smaller force under Brigadier General John S. “Cerro Gordo” Williams.October 10, 1863
Davis is with his key western command, having sought to boost morale where he could enroute.
Early in the morning, Burnside begins a slow movement toward Williams’ Confederates. Despite taking measures to protect his flanks, Williams can only do so at the cost of thinning his already spare lines. By 5:00 in the afternoon, Brigadier General Edward Ferrero is in position with his division to punch through the weakened Southern position. Although a remnant withdraws to another line by the end of the day, just over two hundred Confederates will have fallen to the Union advance, which costs the Federals just half that number.
Portions of the Army of Northern Virginia cross the Rapidan River to approach Centreville, hoping to launch an assault against the Army of the Potomac.
Slowly Cump Sherman shakes himself back to his duty as a soldier and shifts his emphasis to the successful prosecution of the conflict, explaining to Henry Halleck in Washington:
“This war might end sooner than it will, but it may be the good of the future requires our people to pass through all the phases of revolution before they are again permitted to enjoy the luxury of peace and safety. When that time comes I believe we will be a better people, and the very ones who provoked war so thoughtlessly will be cured.”
Nevertheless a tormented Sherman tells Ellen:
“I still feel out of heart to write. The moment I begin to think of you & the children, Poor Willy appears before me as plain as life. . . . But the world moves on. I see ladies & children playing in the Room where Willy died, and it seems sacrilege. . . . Why should I have ever taken them to that dread Climate? It nearly kills me to think of it. Why was I not killed at Vicksburg and left Willy to grow up to care for you?”October 11, 1863
At mid-morning, an anxious President Lincoln inquires simply of the hero of Gettysburg, George Meade, concerning his movements against Robert E. Lee’s command: “How is it now?”October 12, 1863
After the threat of Confederate raiders in the vicinity of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has compelled him to shift out of the hospital into the works, Union surgeon John Bennitt informs his wife,
“Our moving into the fortifications, and the full occupancy of my time with affairs there, and now we have moved back again with all our fixtures. We make quite a village of just the Hospital tents and appurtanances. These we do not have to move if we go on the march; then we have but two tents and can load all into our wagon in a few minutes.”October 13, 1863
In South Carolina, Colonel Voris notes the progress of voting in the ranks, buttressed by a decidedly strong personal desire “to give the Copperheads a rebuke.”
“I believe all the native born Americans voted the Union ticket. Some Irish, Gov. [Horatio] Seymour’s friends voted for [Clement] Vallandigham. The Irish as railroad hands are well enough, but as citizens they are sure to be on ‘the rebellion side, by Jazes.’ The intelligent colored man is much more respectable and safe as a voter than the Irish. If I had taken a big jug of whiskey, I think I could have controlled the votes of the Irish company, who voted 9 for [John] Brough and 17 for Valladigham, 26 in all. Thank God I had no Officer in my Regt who disgraced himself or the Regt by voting for Val.”
At Chattanooga, the election for statewide offices also occurs, where the 125th Ohio “all voted for Brough, except two. The 19th Ohio went ‘solid’ for Brough. This is especially noteworthy, as its former Colonel & Lt. Col., also its present Colonel, Major, and a large number of its’ officers were democrats, of the Breckinridge School!” Colonel Opdycke concludes, “This is a cheering sign, of a healthy change in sentiment. We have reports from thirty seven (37) regiments, and six (6) batteries; which stand for Brough 8634, for Valandigham 249; for Val. a little more than one in forty. . . . The Valandigham traitor vote is disgraceful, yet it will serve to show the Copperheads at home, that all could vote, as they chose.”
Aside from Ohio’s John Brough, one of the important beneficiaries of Republican victory in statewide elections is Pennsylvania’s governor Andrew Curtin.October 14, 1863
Ambrose Powell Hill sends his men forward near Bristoe Station, but without the benefit of adequate reconnaissance or the proximity of reinforcements if trouble transpires. The blows fall upon the Fifth Corps of George Sykes, assisted by Gouverneur Warren’s Second Corps. Heavy losses for the Confederates amount to 1,380 compared to the Union’s 540, with North Carolinians under brigadier generals John R. Cooke (700) and William W. Kirkland (602) suffering inordinately.
Now in Corinth, Mississippi, General Sherman writes to his compatriot Admiral David Dixon Porter to provide encouragement for striking additional blows at the Confederacy:
“You have almost finished your Job, and can and will doubtless with infinite pleasure help us, who must live, whilst we penetrate the very bowels of their land.”
Despite the toils and dangers of service, welcome news has reached the Ohio troops at Morris Island:
“We are being paid off today. Pay day is always embraced with joy by the men. Green Backs are such nice things to send home.”October 15, 1863
The submarine, H.L. Hunley, suffers a second disaster that takes with it the craft’s inventor, Horace Hunley, and seven compatriots.October 16, 1863
President Lincoln offers to deflect any criticism that might arise from a setback in the field if the Army of the Potomac strikes at its opponents in Virginia unsuccessfully, telling Major General Henry Halleck: “If Gen. Meade can now attack him on a field no worse than equal for us, and will do so with all the skill and courage, which he, his officers and men possess, the honor will be his if he succeeds, and the blame may be mine if he fails.”
An always opinionated Emerson Opdycke offers his assessment of Chickamauga, where he deems George Thomas “the hero of the day,” then shifts to current matters outside Chattanooga based upon reports from Confederate newspapers and deserters filtering into Union lines: “Bragg has been relieved, and Bishop Genl. or Genl. Bishop Polk is under arrest. Forrest is reassigned, while Wheeler has been whipped, and is trying to get across the River. Jeff Davis visited his troops here, the other day, and our pickets could hear the rebel cheers. He promised them on last Saturday, that the next six days should give them greater cause to rejoice, than they had had in some time. Those six days are nearly gone, and everything is very quiet; it he means to attack us here, in front, we would be delighted to have him come on; we are sure of victory; but I do not beleive they will dare, although they are being heavily reinforced. It is thought Longstreet will take command; Bragg is his superior, and such a change would not displease us.”October 17, 1863
President Lincoln issues a call for an additional 300,000 volunteers. “In issuing this Proclamation, I address myself not only to the Governors of the several States, but also to the good and loyal people thereof, invoking them to lend their willing, cheerful and effective aid to the measures thus adopted, with a view to reinforce our victorious armies now in the field and bring our needful military operations to a prosperous end, thus closing forever the fountains of sedition and civil war.”
Ulysses Grant receives instructions to take command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, prompting his friend Sherman to conclude:
“Grant has been ordered to command the Armies of the Ohio, the Cumberland and the Tennessee. So after two long years of almost discordant war, the Govt. has arrived at the very conclusion I made at the outset. We have one vast Field of Battle extending from the Atlantic to the Plains.”October 18, 1863
In the aftermath of the Bristoe Station Campaign, Confederate surgeon Thomas Wood tells his parents, “Genl. Lee’s whole design, as has since transpired, was to separate their column, cut off an enemy corps or so with its train, and pursue the remnant to their entrenchments. The design was admirable, showing much of Genl. Lee’s ability, but the execution was miserable. Although comparatively this campaign was a short one, its failure is more signal than any during the war, although not disastrous. I saw very much of Genl. Lee during this march, and his face indicated good humor and high spirits. I never saw the General look better. He superintended in person the fording of the Rapidan.”October 19, 1863
n Virginia, Jeb Stuart’s cavalry rout their counterparts under Brigadier General Judson H. Kilpatrick in an affair that becomes known as the “Buckland Races.”
Abraham Lincoln makes an interesting assessment regarding the alleged threat of violence toward the government of Missouri by “a party” in the state. “Does the party so proclaim, or is it only that, some members of the party so proclaim?” Lincoln concludes, “No party can be justly held responsible for what individual members of it may say or do.”
Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay, records in his diary:
“The President told me this morning that Rosecrans was to be removed from command of the army at Chattanooga. . . . He says that Rosecrans has seemed to lose spirit and nerve since the battle of Chickamauga.”
General Rosecrans announces his departure as commander of the Army of the Cumberland to the troops.
By 11:30 P.M., Grant wires his new commander, George Henry Thomas:
“Hold Chattanooga at all hazards. I will be there as soon as possible.”
The Virginian in blue replies:
“I will hold the town till we starve.”
News of the election results have reached South Carolina, where Colonel Voris reports:October 20, 1863
“Poor Valladigham will hardly march in triumph to the State Capitol with his two hundred thousand supporters to be inaugurated the next Governor of Ohio. My men gave nine hearty cheers when the news was communicated to them.”
Grant has ended his meetings with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in Louisville, Kentucky, in where he ordered William Rosecrans relieved of command, and is now on his way toward Chattanooga, for a first-hand look at operations there.October 21, 1863
Union major general William B. Franklin is active in the Bayou Teche region of Louisiana.
Virginia cavalryman Robert W. Parker sends a letter addressed to a wide range of family members, ostensibly to be passed around as circumstance permits, and reflecting the views of a young man of faith:
“And one of my desires is that while you all are enjoying such great blessings, you would not forget your unworthy son, brother, and cousin, far from you, exposed to the deadly missiles of the enemy, disease, death, and the privations of camp—for I can assure you, my dear parents, if ever one should be thankful to almighty God, I am one, for His kind protection through the trials we have been for the past ten or twelve days, and I am thankful to almighty God that I have felt that He has protected me. Different times in within the past few days while confronting the foe on the field of battle, it seemed as if He was directing the balls [to] either side of me, and none has so far as I know [even] touched my clothes.”October 22, 1863
Surgeon Bennitt remains in Murfreesboro, where he has the opportunity to ride over a portion of the 1862-1863 battleground of Stones River. There he locates a gift to forward to his wife:
“We passed over the ground where the 11th Mich. did some terrible fighting, and where several of them were killed. I plucked some cotton bowles on a field over which our forces fought, and I will send you three.—One not-open—one partly open, & one fully ripe, as when the cotton is gathered. The negroes were in the field at the work. The frost had nipped it so that those not Ripe now will not be worth much. These bowles are smaller than common but the best I could get. The negroes go through the field with a bag tied around the neck and hanging in front with something to keep it open, & then grasp the cotton with the three or four fingers, pulling the cotton out with the seeds, but leaving the bowle upon the stalk. One negro said he could pick in this manner when the cotton is good, 250 lbs. . . . The[y] are sometimes used for breastworks, for men to stand behind and shoot at the enemy. Two bales will stop a canon ball.”October 23, 1863
A tired and hobbled U.S. Grant reaches Chattanooga, to find a cool reception initially from George Thomas, who has been taken unawares by his superior’s unexpected arrival. Nevertheless, the men pass the awkwardness of the moment to focus on relieving the siege that has essentially enveloped the city since Chickamauga.October 24, 1863
Still pleased with the election results in the North, Alvin Coe Voris remains vehement in his stance toward those who have not embraced the war:
“The political leaders of the Valladigham party ought not only be vanquished in the elections, but should be punished in our prisons for their filthy acts of treason. Never were men more deserving of severe punishment for infidelity to their Government than the men who threw the democratic party into such a slough of hostility to the great cause of the Government. Political defeat is too good for them.”October 25, 1863
In Virginia, the celebrated Southern cavalryman, Jeb Stuart, assesses the change of Union leadership in the West for his wife:
“Rosencranz has been superceded by Geo. H. Thomas, a good thing for us.”
At Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Confederate brigadier general John S. Marmaduke, attacks a garrison of Union troops from Kansas and Indiana. Despite having some 2,000 men to probe the lines defended by 500 Federals, Marmaduke also finds himself confronting several hundred recently freed slaves. These forces employ cotton bales as well as artillery pieces to repel the attackers at a cost of 56 troops and 17 of the former slaves, while inflicting at least 40 casualties among the horsemen from Arkansas and Missouri.
Emerson Opdycke assesses the changes in leadership in his sector of the war:
“Grant has immense responsibilities upon him, should he fail here, his past reputation will be dimmed, and he shelved again; but if he succeeds now, he will be in the flood tide of success at the death of the rebellion; and will stand peerless in the annals of American Generals. His incentives to the greatest exertions are extraordinary, and with such power in his hands as the Government has given him, and with such an able general as Thomas, as his chief here, I think success can hardly be doubtful.”
“We feel a profound confidence in Thomas, not that he is brilliant, but he is firm, solid, industrious, and possesses an irreproachable character, a pure and unselfish love of country: just such a true nobleman, as that when you look at him, you instantly think of Washington.”October 26, 1863
Lincoln offers fatherly advice to a young officer accused of indiscretions and “condemned to be court-martialed for quarreling.”
“No man resolved to make the most of himself, can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper, and the loss of self-control. Yield larger things to which you can show no more than equal right; and yield lesser ones, though clearly your own. Better to give your path to a dog, than be bitten by him in contesting the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite.”
President Lincoln also offers the “Ladies having in charge of the North-Western Fair,” a copy of the preliminary emancipation proclamation. “I had some desire to retain the paper; but if it shall contribute to the relief or comfort of the soldiers that will be better.”October 27, 1863
Good news for the North at hard-pressed Chattanooga comes when in the early morning hours a portion of William B. Hazen’s brigade floats silently toward the Confederates at Brown’s Ferry and effects a landing in which his men overwhelm the defenders and seize the vital point. The surprise attack allows the Federals to reopen the Tennessee River to a greater flow of supply for the Union troops in the region. The water route for “the cracker line” is operational.
Union cannon roar against the shambles of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.October 28, 1863
Colonel Opdyke reports on Hazen’s success at Brown’s Ferry and promises his wife that other advances are expected shortly, although he suggests rather incongruously, “No great battle will be fought here this year, so be at ease about it.”
From Iuka, Sherman informs Ellen of his assessment of recent developments in the command structure:
“The Change in the Commands is radical. I dont pretend to understand all the secrets of Rosecrans position. I know that He & Grant had sharp words & feelings over Corinth & hear a year ago, and that Grant does not like him, besides Rosecrans has all along had a set of flunkeys about him, pouring out the oil of flattery that was sickening to all true men.”
Having finally obtained the chance to slip away from the lines in Virginia, Stephen Dodson Ramseur marries Ellen Richmond at her family residence near Milton, North Carolina. Dod and Nellie have found a rare moment of humanity in the war that has largely separated them, except through an affectionate correspondence.
During the night and into the early morning hours, the Confederates attempt to redeem the situation outside Chattanooga with an attack by Brigadier General Micah Jenkins against Brigadier General John W. Geary’s men at Wauhatchie Station, near Lookout Mountain. Despite the effort in one of the Civil War’s rare night assaults, the Southern troops fail to re-establish the lines that had blockaded the Tennessee River. Federal casualties from the affair stand at 78 killed, 327 wounded and 15 missing or captured, while those of their opponents consist of approximately 340 killed and wounded and 69 missing or captured. The Union number include Geary’s son, who perishes while serving the artillery tubes that are so effective in thwarting Confederate intentions.October 29, 1863
The defenders of Fort Sumter endure additional pummeling from Union tubes.
Emerson Opdycke notes the chiding Union troops from East and West give to each other as they confront their mutual Confederate adversaries at Chattanooga. Oliver Howard’s men from the Army of the Potomac offer to capture Lookout Mountain for their western comrades, while the latter remind their eastern friends that they first must prepare for the rebel’s yelling in greater volume here than they had experienced at Chancellorsville, where Stonewall Jackson’s surprise assault had driven Howard’s line backward in a hasty retreat.
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas notes the anxiety prevalent concerning the state of the economy:
“The great fear of every patriot at this moment relates to our currency. The vast over issues of paper money have raised prices to such a pitch as to make the expenses of the Government enormous. . . . The poor suffer from this enormous inflation of currency. Beef is 1.25 per lb—Butter $4—Eggs 3—clothing is unobtainable . . . coffee is $8—sugar 3, etc. so on. Shoes cannot be had under 50 to $60 the pr. for very common ones. God only knows where all this will Stop.”October 30, 1863
Union artillery fire once more rakes the ruins of Fort Sumter, although the overall effect of the vast expenditure of ordnance of the last several days is that the Confederates retain their grip on the iconic fortification.
Outside Chattanooga, recriminations abound for the inability of the Confederates to reclaim the ground lost in recent operations. Charges and complaints abound, in this case between James Longstreet, Micah Jenkins and Evander Law, but they are symptomatic of larger festering in the Southern ranks. Lieutenant Colonel George Brent notes with foreboding in his journal:
“Bragg will regret that he has not insisted on being relieved. It will not be in his power to suppress the jealousies and discontents which exist.”October 31, 1863
William H.S. Burgwyn is busy in North Carolina with both free and slave labor erecting defenses to protect local resources.
November 1863November 2, 1863
President Lincoln receives an invitation to offer “appropriate remarks” at the dedication of a national cemetery located at Gettysburg, Pa.
From McMinnville, Tennessee, Surgeon John Bennitt of the 19th Michigan is struck by the effect the war and the presence of troops from both armies have had on the town:
“This was a beautiful town, but has suffered much, and when the ‘rebs’ invaded it a month ago, they ransacked it completely—breaking open every store & carrying off and destroying every thing valuable. . . . Since the rebel raid here the post has been occupied by some Tennessee Federal Cavalry who preyed upon the people about as badly as the rebels and aided considerably in completing the work of desolation which the enemy had so well begun. Most of the people here now are loyal only from necessity, and there is little good to be expected from them in the way of defence or information. . . .”
At the Johnson’s Island prison compound, John Dooley continues to divert himself with games, theatrical performances and word of the occasional escape plot.November 3, 1863
In his diary on this date, Dooley records one escape attempt:
“It rained last night and over a dozen officers escaped from the Prison enclosure to the outer portion of the island. This escape was effected by burrowing or tunneling from beneath Block I, the house nearest the fence on the other side of the Yankee guard house: but after weeks of burrowing, half suffocated most of the time and enduring fatigue drudgery and the fear of being detected, the escaped prisoner finds himself worse off on the other side of the fence than he was inside the Pen: for besides being covered with mud and chilled through by the rain, tired and hungry, he has no means of escape from the island: in dread and danger of momentary capture. . . . [These factors] serve to render his despair more complete and with hungry stomach and sick at heart he returns from his desolated and uncomfortable covert to deliver himself up as a wiser but more unhappy prisoner.”
The ever colorful Milton Barrett is outside Chattanooga, and informs his brother and sister:
“Times is a giting moar exciteable every day. . . . Tha is caninadeing a going every day But i dont beleve that a general ingagement will come of hear. . . .
We have had a bounnance of rain have wash a way some of our railroad bridges, makes it very difacult to git supplyes. hear in fack our rashings have bin of a infery kind every scence we have bin heare, mostley corn meal and it damage and our beef not very good and I dout haveing that long.”
Ned Guerrant is despondent about the state of leadership in his sector of the war in East Tennessee:
“Maj. Genl. Sam. Jones, Maj. Genl. Rob’t Ransom Jr., Brig. Genl. Corse, Brig. Genl. Wharton, & Brig. Gen’l. Williams, all at our Head Quarters today. Result: 0.
Generals are men.
Men are mortal.
To err is mortal.
&c.”November 4, 1863
Ensconced in his position around Chattanooga and plagued with internal dissension in his army, Bragg looks for momentum and relief by detaching James Longstreet in the direction of Knoxville, Tennessee.
At McMinnville, Surgeon Bennitt explains to his wife:
“Our business here is more to prevent the inroads of the guerrillas, & to protect loyal citizens. There are many living in this town & in the country around, who have taken the oath of allegiance from compulsion, i.e. in order to save themselves from imprison[men]t or being sent beyond the federal lines.”
From his headquarters, Confederate brigadier general John S. Williams issues a statement to his men illustrating that the notion of Southern honor thrives in the midst of war:
I have asked to be temporarily relieved from the command of this brigade because my honor would not allow me to retain it longer.
It is unnecessary for me to recite the reasons which have impelled me to this step.
My association with you has been short, but full of stirring events.
The patient endurance, & devoted courage you have shown in one of the most trying and difficult campaigns of this or any other war, command my highest admiration and endear you to me by one of the strongest of human ties, that of sharing a common hardship & a common danger.”
Prisoner John Dooley notes the contradictory life of military captives:
“Today Blocks 1 & 2 on account of the tunneling under their house and the recent escape therefrom are paroled to this effect that they will not attempt any more burrowing and will report to head Qtrs if others attempt the same. Otherwise they will be ejected and others, who are willing to subscribe to such promises, placed in their stead. As they are all comfortably quartered, and as it has always been considered a distinguished lot to inhabit nos 1 & 2, they take the parole and remain in their rooms as before.”November 5, 1863
Outside Charleston, Union colonel Alvin Coe Voris offers his wife his observations on the developments in his vicinity:
“Our batteries have been playing away at Sumter for the last ten days & have nearly leveled the sea face to the water’s edge. I think it will be taken soon. . . . I have never looked upon the capture of Charleston of great significance as a military movement. The moral effect would be good, but what is it worth to us when we have taken it?”
Abraham Lincoln informs Major General Nathaniel Banks that he is concerned about the lack of steps yet taken to establish a “registry” of citizens in Louisiana that will “give me a tangible nucleus which the remainder of the State may rally around as fast as it can, and which I can at once recognize and sustain as the true State government.
Time is important. There is danger, even now, that the adverse element seeks insidiously to pre-occupy the ground. If a few professedly loyal men shall draw the disloyal about them, and colorably set up a State government, repudiating the emancipation proclamation, and re-establishing slavery, I can not recognize or sustain their work. I should fall powerless in the attempt. This government, in such an attitude, would be a house divided against itself.”
Extortionate prices plague consumers in the Confederate capital. Bureaucrat J.B. Jones notes:
“Yesterday flour sold at auction at $100 per barrel; to-day it sells for $120!”November 6, 1863
Conducting a raid toward Lewisburg, West Virginia, Union brigadier general William Averell finds Confederate cavalry under Colonel William L. “Mudwall” Jackson, now reinforced by infantry and artillery under Brigadier General John Echols, blocking his path in the vicinity of Droop Mountain, West Virginia. Averell divides his forces and strikes the Confederates. Echols holds his ground briefly, but the line gives way and enables the bluecoats to proceed to Lewisburg.
Charles Mattocks of the 17th Maine has just returned to the front in Virginia to find all signs indicating imminent action:
“The Army is in good fighting trim and will give Lee a hard fight, if engaged.”
Alvin Voris is already contemplating the election coming in 1864:
“I dread the coming Presidential canvass. If the war was over it would be harmless enough, but with the war on our hands will be a bad affair. I hardly think the Copperheads will make such a fight as they made in Ohio in the last election, unless we should be verry unfortunate in our operations. The lesson of this fall’s election must be heeded by them, but peace men are so unscrupulous and presumptuous that they will make the struggle a dangerous one. I wish we did not elect our President so frequently, and that he should forever be ineligible after once holding the office for a time.
I am not afraid of the army. Its fidelity to the country has been too well tried to have any fear on its account. But the filthy demagogues of both parties will do anything to advance their own ends.”November 7, 1863
Heavy skirmishing ensues as George Meade moves against Robert E. Lee in Virginia. Lee had pulled back after Bristoe Station, leaving a fortified position north of the Rappahannock River. Expecting the main Union advance to come at Kelly’s Ford, the Confederate chieftain has shifted most of his men in that direction and detailed only limited forces, under Brigadier General Harry T. Hays, subsequently reinforced by Colonel Archibald C. Godwin at Rappahannock Station. Union major general John Sedgwick maneuvers elements of his corps deftly so that in the darkness they succeed in surprising the Confederates and capturing 1,675 men. Another 500 Confederates fall into Union hands at Kelly’s Ford. Total Union losses amount to 419 at Rappahannock Station and 42 at Kelly’s Ford.
South Carolinian Emma Holmes notes the recent events in Charleston:
“The tremendous bombardment of glorious old Sumter has continued steadily. . . .
The President visited our city last week on his way from the west and was most enthusiastically received. . . .”November 8, 1863
The shuffling of commanders in the Army of Tennessee in this instance sends a disgruntled Daniel Harvey Hill out of the Second Corps to be replaced by Major General John C. Breckinridge.
Charles Mattocks describes the work of Union troops in assailing the Confederate lines across the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s Ford:
“Two companies of Berdan’s Sharpshooters were drawn up in an extended line along the bank opposite the Rifle-pit. A Company of Sharpshooters then plunged into the stream right in the face of a rifle-pit filled with Rebels. Now the Rebs thought their time for work had come. They raised their heads above the embankment to pick off the bold Sharpshooters now hardly half a dozen rods from them, and advancing to cross the stream, which was nearly waist deep and running with a strong current. But as soon as a head was raised several muskets, or rather, Sharpe’s rifles, were leveled and a Sharpe’s rifle in the hands of Berdan’s men means death or wounds. This part of the shooting was done by Berdan’s two companies which had been drawn up to cover the advance upon the rifle-pit. In this manner the whole rifle-pit was bagged and what few tried to run away were shot down in the act.”
Josiah Gorgas laments the news that the Army of Northern Virginia has experienced a set-back that has resulted in the capture of a substantial number of troops:
“It is very strange how little success has attended the movement of Lee’s army since the death of Jackson.”
John Bennitt attends a Methodist Church service in Tennessee, although he is left in a facetious mood concerning the loyalties of the preacher:
“We like to hear a man when he prays for peace. . . and when he prays for wisdom for our rulers, we wish to know whether he would be understood to pray for Abraham Lincoln & his congress or Jeff Davis & his. When he prays for our government to know whether he means the Confederacy or the government of the United States. For some reason, the preachers south nearly all preach and pray in this ambiguous manner; that they may not offend, I suppose. I doubt whether a man that has not the courage to be speak[ing] so there can be no misinterpretation when he alludes at all to the subject, is fit to preach at all.”November 9, 1863
John Wilkes Booth performs in the play, The Marble Heart, with Abraham Lincoln in attendance.
President Lincoln considers the question of allowing for state conventions to consider repeal of ordinances of secession:
“The point which impressed me was, not so much the questions to be voted on, as the effect of chrystallizing, so to speak, in taking such popular vote on any proper question. In fact, I have always thought the act of secession is legally nothing, and needs no repealing.”
Later in the evening, the president receives word of the capture of 1,500 Confederate prisoners in Virginia, prompting him to inquire of Major General George Meade:
“I have seen your dispatches about operations on the Rappahannock on Saturday, and I wish to say, ‘Well done.’”
General Sherman offers his views on the press and its freedoms in wartime to the editor of the Memphis Bulletin, James Bingham:
“I believe in Freedom as near absolute, as is consistent with safety. I believe in free thought, free speech and free Press. . . .
You or any fair man, looking back on the history of our own country for the past forty years must admit, that the Press has gradually intensified he feelings of mutual jealousy and hatred between the North and the South till war not only resulted, but was bound to result. You see yet the Press of each Section, instead of healing the gap, is vigorously widening it.
All must act in concert to stop War, strife anarchy. When these are done, Peace restored, Civil Courts & Law respected, then you are free again.”November 10, 1863
Sandie Pendleton writes despairingly:
“I don’t think Meade will come on. I earnestly hope General Lee will soon attack him, and let us retrieve our lost reputation. It is absolutely sickening, and I feel personally disgraced by the issue of the late campaign, as does every one in the command. Oh, how each day is proving the inestimable value of General Jackson to us!”November 11, 1863
Major General Benjamin Butler replaces John G. Foster as commander of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina.
An Indiana citizen cables Washington to seek an audience with the president. Lincoln’s response points to the access given to the public, even under the strictures of wartime:
“I do not often decline seeing people who call upon me; and probably will see you if you call.”November 12, 1863
John Dooley notes the degree to which rumors of an attempt to free the prisoners impacts the routine of life at Johnson’s Island:
“Great excitement on the island during the night—a battery of six guns reaches the island and small vessels of every kind are exploring the lake for rebel cruisers. . . . The Yankees are sure that succor is about to be given us from Canada, as in fact has been expected by us; but altogether they know all about the design, no overt action has yet taken place. There was a Yankee in our block all night dressed as a Confederate in order to report etc.”
William Wiley of the 77th Illinois Infantry reaches New Iberia, Louisiana:
“Gen Burbridge was in command of the post and he forced all the male citizens of the place to turn out and work with the darkeys digging rifle pits and throw up breast works for us while we were drawn up in line to receive the rebels if they made an attact. The citizens were very bitter rebel sentiments and objected very strongly against working with the niggers to build fortifycations for the yanks but the general ordered the guards to trot them out and give them the bayonette if they didn’t work. So they had to come to time which pleased the boys so well that Gen Burbridge was a great favorite with them afterwards.”
John Bennitt remains affected by the destruction of the region in which he is currently stationed:
“Much of the defacing of this fair land cannot easily be remedied, for beautiful groves are being cut down to open the way for the range of cannon or rifle shot, and long, long time will be required to restore these. Orchards are cut down, and forts built on the ground where they stood—fine residences torn away and the walks and shrubbery destroyed to give place to redoubts and earthworks. Such is war.”November 13, 1863
William T. Sherman arrives at Bridgeport, Tennessee, with 13,000 men enroute to join Grant at Chattanooga to lift the siege of that city.
Colonel Voris assesses the state of mind of the soldiery as he sees it for his wife:
“The soldier is not the most unhappy mortal in the world by any means. He has no care under Heaven, only to eat & wear what Uncle Samuel provides & do what he is instructed to do, but when that is done he is entirely relieved from care. If he works hard he has a corresponding period for rest. If he has to encounter danger, he has the satisfaction of adventure, and if unfortunate he knows that a grateful people & a just Government will protect the objects of his affection. . . .”November 14, 1863
Tennessee Unionist Marcus Woodcock is in Chattanooga with his Kentucky regiment, where he records the latest developments in his diary:
“weather still exceedingly beautiful—Battery on Lookout Mountain works away with its usual regularity—Rations growing much plentier—Hurrah for that.”November 15, 1863
As Dooley records in his diary, Johnson’s Island is still astir. “Sunday & raining—much excitement is aroused this morning and continues throughout the day in the prison. A fleet of vessels is said to be clearly discernible by the aid of a telescope; and although stationary and several miles distant, many suppose it to be the long expected succor from Canada, therefore we will have a fight before the day is over. etc. . . . [but] the morning wears away & with it fades from their glassy view the fleet, that forlorn armada.”November 16, 1863
Longstreet continues to probe toward Knoxville, encountering Burnside’s troops at Campbell’s Station. He has failed to prevent a Union withdrawal to their formidable earthwork system that protects the city.
Concerned with the fate of East Tennessee as he has been since the start of the war, an anxious President Lincoln inquires of Major General Ambrose Burnside in Knoxville concerning the threat from Longstreet’s Confederates:
“What is the news?”November 17, 1863
Lincoln communicates with Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase concerning plans for traveling to make remarks at the cemetery dedication at Gettysburg:
“I expected to see you here at [the] Cabinet meeting, and to say something about going to Gettysburg. There will be a train to take and return us. The time for starting is not yet fixed; but when it shall be, I will notify you.”
The President reviews Edwin Stanton’s schedule for the journey to Gettysburg, which will have him not leaving Baltimore until 8:00 A.M. to arrive at his destination only four hours later for the dedication:
“I do not like this arrangement. I do not wish to so go that by the slightest accident we fail entirely, and at the best, the whole to be a mere breathless running of the gauntlet.”
At Bridgeport, Sherman pauses to tell his wife Ellen the current state of affairs:
“The enemy still invests Chattanooga in force and we must drive them back. Great difficulty has existed to Supply Chattanooga. . . .”November 18, 1863
Lincoln arrives at Gettysburg in the late afternoon, where he receives word that his seriously ill son Tad appears to be improving and the news allows him to rest more easily after the trip from Washington.
From Vicksburg, Major General James McPherson informs Sherman that local citizens have asked to “organize a Police force to restrain excesses on the part of the negroes.”
Sherman is unsympathetic:
“The Masters by rebelling have freed the negro and taken from themselves the Courts and Machinery by which any real Law could be enforced in their country. . . .
The Army is not the Tribunal, even to discuss such trivial matters. It is merely to suppress all disorders on the part of all, White, Indian and negro, but not to judge of contracts of labor or of any kind.
You as Military Commander in that region and each subordinate in his sphere will suppress all riots disorders and irregularities, that disturb the peace but need not bother yourselves about the rights or wrongs growing out of differences between Masters and Servants, the employer and employed. That is none of our business.”November 19, 1863
President Lincoln on his way to the cemetery dedication by mid-morning. The featured speaker for this day is the popular orator Edward Everett. Following Everett’s two-hour remarks, a hymn offers the crowd a brief interlude before Ward Lamon, marshal of Washington City and for this event, steps forward to introduce the next speaker:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Abraham Lincoln has given his Gettysburg Address.November 20, 1863
Everett passes along his evaluation of the president’s remarks:
“Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
President Lincoln replies:
“I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.”
From his posting at Bermuda, the U.S. Consul, Charles M. Allen, reports changes in the nature of blockade-running from his perspective:
“The blockade runners here are in much trouble having recently sustained heavy losses, they report the blockade of Wilmington very strong.”November 23, 1863
In the early afternoon, Confederate defenders on Orchard Knob, between Chattanooga and Missionary Ridge watch as large formations of Union troops appear to be undertaking drills. The divisions of brigadier generals Philip H. Sheridan and Thomas J. Wood appear to be engaged in a grand review. Instead, at just before 2:00 these men move steadily forward. Belatedly, the Confederates fire on them, but the momentum carries and the Federals secure the ground as the defenders fall back toward Missionary Ridge. Major General George Thomas sends the message to Wood:
“You have gained too much to withdraw. Hold your position and I will support you.”November 24, 1863
“Fighting Joe” Hooker launches his assault on the Southern lines holding Lookout Mountain in what becomes known as the “Battle Above the Clouds.” Confederate major general Carter L. Stevenson has a relatively small force and little chance to reconnoiter the ground he is called upon to defend. Fighting on the plateau near the Craven farm house, the antagonists struggle for control of the impressive geographical feature amidst the swirl of fog and mist that gives the battle its name. By mid-afternoon, Bragg sends Stevenson orders to disengage, but it is not until night that the last Confederates withdraw.
Marcus Woodcock is a by-stander to the drama on Lookout Mountain:
“The firing continued, sometimes with great severity, and at others slackening down to an ordinary skirmish till late at night. The day was slightly rainy and unusually foggy, sometimes the summit of the mountain would be enveloped in a dense rain cloud and at others we could see the bleak point rising out of the unremitting fog, that kept the base continually hidden from view, like a barren & rocky island rising abruptly from a tempestuous sea. We fancied that at times we could catch glimpses of dark lines fighting their way up the mountain side but we could not be positive, and the distance was too great to distinguish by the ear whether [the] locality of the firing was being changed. When darkness came on we could occasionally catch a dim view of the flash of a gun and from their increasing proximity to the summit of the mountain we rightly judged that our troops were gaining ground. . . .”
The often prickly governor of North Carolina, Zebulon Vance, offers his view of the war:
“We know, at last, precisely what we would get by submission, and therein has our enemy done us good service—abolition of slavery, confiscation of property, and territorial vassalage.”November 25, 1863
Sherman’s assault on the Confederate right fail as he runs into uncertain topography and the stubborn resistance of Patrick Cleburne. As the attacks meant to compromise Bragg’s lines on Missionary Ridge flounder, Grant turns impatiently to Thomas and an assault against the rifle pits on the base of the ridgeline begins. Coming under fire from the defenders, many of the bluecoats take it upon themselves to surge forward rather than remain or withdraw. The troops climb the face of the ridge and break the Confederate center near Braxton Bragg’s headquarters.
Charles Dana reflects the exuberance of the Union command in a communication with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton:
“The day is decisively ours. Missionary Ridge has just been carried by a magnificent charge of Thomas’s troops, and [the] rebels routed.”
When news reaches Lincoln in Washington from Grant at Chattanooga, the president replies:
“Your despatches as to fighting on Monday & Tuesday are here. Well done. Many thanks to all. Remember Burnside.”
Happier tidings for the Southern cause come as Jeb Stuart forwards a report from Major John S. Mosby to the Confederate war department noting that officer’s recent exploits:
“Major Mosby is ever vigilant, ever active. The importance of his operations is shown by the heavy guard the enemy is obliged to keep to guard the railroad from his attacks.”
Secretary of War John Seddon appends on his endorsement:
“Noted, with satisfaction and appreciation of the energy and valor displayed.”November 26, 1863
Still looking for an advantage against Robert E. Lee in the aftermath of Gettysburg, George Meade crosses the Rapidan River to open the Mine Run Campaign. The slow crossing has alerted Lee to the general movement, but he remains uncertain of the Union intentions.
Alvin Voris waxes nostalgic:
“Thanksgiving is almost over and I have had neither turkey or pumpkin pie, nor have I been visited by a single soul that sustains me any other relation than that of friend. . . . I shall certainly try to spend the next Thanksgiving with my jewels at my own dear home. I pray God it may be with peace pervading the nation.”November 27, 1863
After a series of missteps, compounded by poor leadership, William Henry French clashes with Edward Johnson at Payne’s Farm in a sharp contest that produces 950 Union and 545 Confederate casualties.
Major General Joseph Hooker is in a prime mood to inflict as much damage on the retreating Confederates in Georgia as he can. Pushing toward Ringgold Gap for that purpose, his men confront the troops of Patrick Cleburne. The Irish Confederate exhibits a stout defense that repulses the Union advances at a cost of 507 men to the South’s 221. The effort allows Bragg’s wagon trains and artillery to continue to withdraw in relative safety.
John Hunt Morgan dashes once more, but this time after he and six other officers tunnel out from the Ohio State Penitentiary. The “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy,” is free to strike again.
John Bennitt sees hope in the situation that has developed in Tennessee, despite the aggravation of guerrilla activity:
“Our works of defence go bravely on, but I begin to think they are labor thrown away, for I suspect that no considerable rebel army will ever be as far North in Tennessee as this. It looks to me as though the Rebellion was in its last throes. The enemy is being discomfited on nearly every hand, and the desertions and destruction in the south must weigh heavily upon them. Their case is desperate. I think a year from this time, the volunteer army will be disbanded & at their homes. God grant it may be so. A thing desired by every patriot and Christian.”November 28, 1863
The beleaguered and demoralized troops of the Army of Tennessee reach Dalton, Ga. Straggling has proven rampant over horribly indifferent roads. The weather is cold and dreary, reflecting the mood of a command that has had little to celebrate and continues to demonstrate dissension in the leadership ranks.November 29, 1863
A Confederate assault on Fort Sanders in Knoxville fails to deliver the city into Longstreet’s hands and produces heavy casualties for the attackers. The advancing troops confront entanglements made by telegraph wire strung between tree stumps and a deep ditch for which they have no ladders to scale. For a brief, but horrific time, the men caught in these defensive elements suffer under brisk Union fire. The Confederates will sustain 813 casualties to 15 for the Federals.November 30, 1863
In Virginia, Meade wants to press forward against the Army of Northern Virginia, but Gouverneur Warren becomes convinced that his men will have no success now that Lee has reacted to the Union movement and after days of fighting and maneuvering in the midst of poor weather. Meade calls off the proposed assault.
Braxton Bragg receives word that President Davis has accepted his resignation from command of the Army of Tennessee. The authority for this army is to be passed for now to Lieutenant General William J. Hardee.
December 1863December 1, 1863
James Longstreet continues to grapple with Ambrose Burnside in the Knoxville Campaign. “Lee’s War Horse” has proven no more successful in laying siege to a Union opponent in an independent command here than he had done the previous spring at Suffolk, Virginia.
Union prison officials in Washington release Belle Boyd, the celebrated Southern spy, now stricken with typhoid fever, with the admonition that she should remain beyond Federal lines.December 2, 1863
Braxton Bragg turns over command of the Army of Tennessee to Lieutenant General William Hardee. The dysfunctional leadership has suffered from severe disgruntlement, made worse by recent setbacks around Chattanooga.
As President Lincoln considers the future, he generates a memorandum on the status of any newly formed loyal governments in the Southern states that might have confounded Virginians concerning their own experience with the creation of loyal State governments:
“It is suggested as proper that in constructing a loyal State government in any State, the name of the State, the boundary, the subdivisions the Constitution and general code of laws, as before the rebellion, be maintained, subject only to the modifications made necessary by the conditions herein before stated, and such others if any, as may be deemed proper in the State, and not contravening said conditions.”December 3, 1863
In his diary, John B. Jones considers the latest war news near Richmond:
“Meade recrossed the Rapidan last night! This is a greater relief to us than the enemy has any idea of. I hope the campaign is over for the winter.”
Edward Guerrant records the distant developments in Virginia:
“Papers announce a great battle imminent between the armies of Genl. Lee & Genl. Meade, both in line of battle on the opposite sides of Mine Run, a little stream in Spottsylvania, 12 miles of Chancellorsville. We have all confidence in Lee. Perhaps too much.”
Of reports that Knoxville, Tennessee, has fallen to Confederate forces, the Kentuckian notes caustically, “Much of the town burned. No loss.”
At McMinnville, Tennessee, surgeon John Bennitt, explores the question of regionalism in the Union army when it comes to matters of personal hygiene and camp cleanliness:
“Our Michigan men are much better in this respect than any troops I have seen in the field. I observe this in the other regiments from Mich. beside ours. Wisconsin troops compare well with those of Mich. in this respect, but are not up to the mark. Illinois & Indiana better than Missouri, Kentucky & Tennessee. Soldiers from the East compare well with, yet do not excel the Michiganders. The Eastern troops are inclined to regard Western men with something of contempt but they find that our Northwestern men are not a whit behind them in any point [of] soldierly bearing—cleanliness, intelligence, or anything else that pertains to manhood.”December 4, 1863
Skirmishing moves away from Knoxville as Longstreet pulls out in a pouring rain in the direction of Virginia, having failed to dislodge Burnside from the city.December 5, 1863
John Bennitt pines for news from home, including whether the American Journal of Medical Sciences is still being published and the “disposition” of a microscope at home that he wishes he had with him at camp.December 6, 1863
In Richmond, Robert G.H. Keen, notes the approaching session of the Confederate Congress with trepidation:
“Congress meets tomorrow. It has the destinies of the country to dispose of. Is it equal to the emergency? I fear not.”
President Davis is mulling over his options, including the possibility of transferring Robert E. Lee to Georgia to rehabilitate the Army of Tennessee.
War Clerk Jones reveals the difficulties the Confederacy must experience while waging war and making provision for its civilian populace:
“I had a conversation with Col. Northrop, Commissary-General, to-day. He anticipates a collision between the Confederate and State authorities on the impressment question. He says the law was intended to secure subsistence for both the people and the army; but there is not sufficient grain in the States. Therefore the army must have what there is, and the people must go without. I differed with him, and maintained if a proper distribution were made there would be enough for all.”December 7, 1863
Reacting to news of Union success in Tennessee, Abraham Lincoln calls for citizens to “informally assemble at their places of worship and tender special homage and gratitude to Almighty God, for this great advancement of the national cause.”
From his distant posting at Shreveport, Louisiana, William Henry King attempts to make sense of the news that arrives from back East:
Hear one report to-day that Bragg had beaten Thomas desperately; & then hear that Thomas has beaten Bragg. An alkali & an acid, when mixed, neutralize each other.”December 8, 1863
President Lincoln delivers his annual message to the U.S. Congress, emphasizing early the important relationships that exist between the United States and foreign countries. As he shifts to domestic matters, the chief executive notes the impact of emancipation:
“Of those who were slaves at the beginning of the rebellion, full one hundred thousand are now in the United States military service, about one-half of which number actually bear arms in the ranks; thus giving the double advantage of taking so much labor from the insurgent cause, and supplying the places which otherwise must be filled with so many white men. So far as tested, it is difficult to say that they are not as good soldiers as any.”
“In the midst of other cares, however important, we must not lose sight of the fact that the war power is still our main reliance. To that power alone can we look, yet for a time, to give confidence to the people in the contested regions, that the insurgent power will not again overrun them. Until that confidence shall be established, little can be done anywhere for what is called reconstruction. Hence our chiefest care must still be directed to the army and navy, who have thus far borne their harder part so nobly and well.”
Nevertheless, the U.S. President offers a “Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction” that includes a plan that will allow formerly rebellious states to “reinaugurate loyal State governments within and for their respective States.”
Off the coast of Massachusetts, Confederate raiders under John C. Braine, board and take command of a merchant vessel, Chesapeake.
Emerson Opdycke has reached Knoxville and examines the ground over which Longstreet’s men advanced against Fort Sanders:
“Human blood was still to be seen where the proud F.F.Vs composing Longstreet’s army, met for the first time with signal defeat. The assault was a foolish attempt. . . . Telegraph wires were placed two or three rods in front of the fort, and fastened from stump to stump: the rebels tumbled over these, causing great confusion and fearful slaughter.”December 9, 1863
Major General John G. Foster replaces Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Department of the Ohio.
From Hilton Head, South Carolina, Union colonel Alvin Coe Voris recounts recent events and offers an evaluation.
“Gen Grant’s was truly a brilliant victory, but the major part of the enemy got away. . . . Gen Meade has accomplished nothing unless his movements were merely feints to occupy the attention of Gen Lee, which is probably true. . . . I did hope when I first learned of the late battles at Chattanooga that Grant would wipe out Bragg before he gave up the pursuit, but I am disappointed. Not badly, however, as I have learned that decisive battles are not verry frequent occurrence[s].”
At Fort Jackson, in Louisiana, frustrated African American soldiers revolt, but the disturbance ends with the intervention of officers at the post.December 10, 1863
In Louisiana, William King continues to struggle to learn a correct version of the facts that filter into his region:
“The News, Extra, of to-day says that Bragg has beaten Thomas severely, & that Longstreet has captured the most of Burnside’s men. Some how, it seems to be hard to get the true history.”December 11, 1863
Union forces lob additional shells at Fort Sumter, hitting a powder magazine and causing nearly a dozen deaths and numerous injuries, but failing to compel the surrender of the iconic post.December 12, 1863
Colonel Voris is in no mood to accept what he has learned of the conditions Union prisoners of war are enduring:
“I would also retaliate with a vengeance upon the rebel prisoners for the scandalous manner our prisoners have been treated by the rebels. I would keep Mr. Johnny Reb on the same rations and in the same kind of quarters they keep our prisoners. . . . If they excused themselves by saying they were not able to do any better I would say to them you have no business to hold prisoners if they cannot treat them as human beings deserve.”December 13, 1863
Longstreet’s troops turn to confront pursuing Union troops under Brigadier General James M. Shackelford in East Tennessee.December 14, 1863
Fighting occurs at Bean’s Station, but Longstreet’s plan to trap the Federals fails to materialize. The small, but sharp engagement produces 222 Confederate and 115 Union casualties.
President Lincoln responds to a request of his wife’s half sister and the widow of Benjamin Hardin Helm, killed at Chickamauga. The note illustrates the emphasis on softening toward those who take an oath of allegiance to the Union and reaffirms the continuing issue of slavery in the loyal border states of the Union:
“It is my wish that Mrs. Emily T. Helm, (widow of the late Gen. B.H. Helm, who fell in the Confederate service) now returning to Kentucky, may have the protection of person and property, except as to slaves, of which I say nothing.”
William King notes an underlying sense of disaffection among his fellow Confederates:
“On guard to-day. My post is at the gun boat. Conversing with some of the hands on the boat, I learn they are very much dissatisfied on account of receiving short pay; no clothing; & not enough to eat. They draw no bacon. Indeed, there is an under current of dissatisfaction in every class of soldiers I have access to. . . . Not infrequently, when first asked, they will express the most sanguine expectations, but a little closer examination discloses an undercurrent, though not in sight at first, it is deep & broad.”December 15, 1863
Lincoln demonstrates a degree of flexibility regarding his recent proposal for restoring loyal governments in the South, while expressing concern that essentially petty politics not derail the larger mission of ending the war and reasserting national authority:
“I have not put forth the plan in that proclamation, as a Procrustean bed, to which exact conformity is to be indispensable; and in Louisiana particularly, I wish that labor already done, which varies from that plan in no important particular, may not be thrown away.
The strongest wish I have, not already publicly expressed, is that in Louisiana and elsewhere, all sincere Union men would stoutly eschew cliqueism, and, each yielding something in minor matters, all work together.”
In South Carolina, Emma Holmes notes the on-going nature of the conflict at Charleston and the fact that Fort Sumter is not always the target:
“The Yankees have been shelling the city constantly, the Greek fire being a failure, but the shells of course injuring many houses. Two deserters had gone over to the Yankees & must have given information of the position of Beauregard’s headquarters, for they got the range very accurately, & the shells fell thickly around that neighborhood. . . . St. Michael’s & St. Philip’s steeples are principal marks & a short time ago, on Thanksgiving Day, the congregations had to be dismissed on the account. The lower part of the city is almost entirely deserted, all business houses having been removed uptown.”
Nevertheless, Sumter remains a defiant symbol for her:
“They seem to be getting very weary of their ‘big job’ after five months ‘pegging away’ at our glorious old Fort, which they find ‘a very hard nut to crack’ even with Monitors & Greek fire. . . .”December 16, 1863
Joseph E. Johnston will be the commander of the troubled Army of Tennessee, replacing William Hardee, who had followed Braxton Bragg.
One of the Union heroes of Gettysburg, Brigadier General John Buford, passes away from the effects of typhoid. A short time earlier, a commission as major general, arrived for him.December 17, 1863
Union naval forces reclaim the steamer Chesapeake in the waters of Nova Scotia.December 18, 1863
From camp in Virginia, Will Nelson tells his mother,
“We are still in the vicinity of Orange Court House and have gone regularly into Winter quarters, and in all probability we will remain here all winter. . . .
I am very pleasantly situated now, have me a wood chimney in my tent and plenty of wood so I can keep comfortable [in] the cold weather. . . .
I stay most of my time in my tent now, and occupy myself in reading. I have just finished David Copperfield last week and am now reading Bourriene’s Life of Napoleon. [I]t is quite difficult to procure anything readable. [T]he Confederate publications as a general thing are worthless and no other books can be obtained here. . . . I have altogether abandoned military studies, as I don’t think my genius lies that way.”
Colonel Voris surveys the political landscape in the wake of President Lincoln’s message to Congress and amnesty proclamation:
“He certainly is a wise man and pre eminently just in his intentions. He is my candidate for the next Presidency. . . . Next to him I look upon Gov [Salmon P.] Chas[e] of Ohio as the man. I look upon Chase as being the stronger man, but not so unselfish as Lincoln. Honest Old Abe labors for the good of others. Gov Chase fishes for salmon.”December 19, 1863
President Jefferson Davis signals his willingness to work with General Johnston, despite the problems that have existed between them and that plague the army:
“The difficulties of your new position are realized and the Government will make every possible effort to aid you. . . .”December 20, 1863
Lincoln reiterates once more that he will not retrace his steps with regard to emancipation as he has implemented it thus far:
“I shall not attempt to retract or modify the emancipation proclamation. . . .”
A defiant Josiah Gorgas observes:
“It is impossible not to rejoice over the misfortunes of such enemies as we are fighting, cruel and ruthless as they show themselves to be. Has war ever been carried on like this before, among civilized people? Homes, gardens, crops, mills, & all intended for the use & sustenance of the non-combatant population are relentlessly and systematically destroyed. They are going to starve & maltreat the inhabitants into submission. Short sighted people, & policy as misguided as it is wicked. They exasperate but do not subdue.”December 21, 1863
From Bermuda, U.S. Consul Charles Maxwell Allen keeps his superiors abreast of developments as he sees them, underscoring the increasing success the Union blockade appears to be enjoying:
“The steamers Coquette and Heroine of which I spoke in my last left here on the 12 instant, the Coquette returned on the 19th reports having been among the blockading fleet off Wilmington, but could not get in.
The steamer Ranger left on the14th with a full cargo, and returned here today, not having been into port.”December 22, 1863
Charles Allen apprises Secretary of State Seward of troubling issues at his post in the Caribbean:
“I beg to inform you that the crews and many of the officers of captured blockade runners are arriving here by most every vessel from the states and shipping [out] again for the same purpose. Were it not for them, it would be difficult for the blockade-running steamers to get crews.”
The vigilant official is also worried that “some piratical scheme” is at hand by “a large number of desperate men from the Southern states.”December 23, 1863
Davis urges General Johnston to undertake “active operations against the enemy” as early as possible.December 24, 1863
William King spends Christmas Eve reading about Jefferson Davis’s message to the Confederate Congress and is troubled at the call for altering the ability of some to obtain substitutes for the draft.
“Now, here we find the President of the Confederacy proposing to violate a sacred contract. Should a citizen refuse to yield to this violation, should it become a law; or, if a substitute, whose age is above Conscription, should consider his contract broken, & return home, such acts would be treated as treason, desertion, etc. ‘It is a poor rule that will not work both ways.’”
Even so, the war goes on for him in his corner of the Confederacy:
“Twelve Federal prisoners were brought in to-day. Two deserters also came in.”December 25, 1863
Christmas Day is not entirely quiet as elements of the opposing forces clash in the Carolinas and elsewhere.
Teetotaler Rufus Kinsley asks to be excused from giving his men liquid spirits for the holiday and when the order comes anyway takes a novel approach to the matter:
“I drew the whiskey, stood on the barrel and delivered a temperance lecture, and then issued to the men. Very few drank. The sand soaked up the surplus.”
From prison at Johnson’s Island, John Dooley writes,
“Christmas day—Dismal Christmas! Alas, it is all the more gloomy because we can’t help thinking of the loved ones at home; and the brighter the outer world, the darker grow our prison shadows.”
Having been on the move, John King of the 92nd Illinois, pauses to celebrate Christmas at Brownsville, Alabama, but contemplates that any cessation will be of short order:
“A soldier is like a cog in the wheel to a great machine, there is a power somewhere that sets it in motion and whenever started he must go, whether he wants to or not, whether the machine is guided by a wise man or a fool, it is go he must.”December 26, 1863
C.S.S. Alabama continues to have its presence felt against U.S. shipping.December 27, 1863
General Johnston assumes his command at Dalton, Georgia.
Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton travel to the prison at Point Lookout, Maryland.
Confederate war department official R.G. H. Kean observes that President Davis has not helped himself in domestic politics:
“As the session advances the President loses friends and now hardly has any.”
From his duty station at Ship Island, Mississippi, Lieutenant Kinsley describes conditions for his sister:
“You will not be surprised that I write from this home of political and social sinners—Butler’s Botany Bay—where are gathered several hundred of the ‘Chivalry.’ From New Orleans and vicinity, among whom may be found mayors, merchants, ministers; bootblacks, bankers, brokers, and women; all (except the women) chained together in gangs of convenient size, and kept out of mischief by being constantly employed in the study and practice of the fine arts; the branches of which most attention is given, being the pounding of bricks, and mixing of mortar, for use in the construction of a large fort, now nearly completed.”
At Hilton Head, South Carolina, Alvin Voris explains to his wife the impact exposure to the local conditions has had upon his Union associates:
“The climate on the sea coast is so far as I have observed much better than in Ohio. It is not cold in winter and the sea breezes so modify the heat in summer that one feels quite comfortable in the middle of the day. Many Northerners are purchasing of the Government lands forfeited for taxes or confiscated because they belonged to rebels, with the view of locating here.”December 28, 1863
Stephen H. Boineau, property manager for Charles Hayward’s plantation property on the Combahee River in South Carolina, updates him on conditions there:
“Mr. Heyward, Christmas is now over and we are again at work.
My principal object in writing is to inform you that notice is given me to be prepared to deliver over to the government 1/3 of all cattle belonging to you at Combahee. A detachment of men will be sent this week to receive and drive them off allowing 35 cts pr lb for all the slaughtered cattle. This is only a begining. The agt. who made the demand says he is instructed to leave only cattle sufficient for family use. Stock are being driven off from all the planters on the river and of course your time must come.”December 29, 1863
Cavalry fighting occurs in East Tennessee between troops under Union brigadier general Samuel D. Sturgis and Confederate major general William T. Martin.
William King continues with his commentary on the state of affairs and the contradictory reports that persist:
“President Davis says our army is in better condition now than at any previous time. The secretary of war says 2/3 of our army are absent without leave—conflicting statements.”
From Bermuda, Consul Allen reports:
“There is now in this port of Saint George nine blockade-running steamers, seven of which will probably leave for the Southern States about the end of this week, so as to be on the coast when there is no moon.”
William T. Sherman assesses Lincoln’s overtures toward the South for his brother John:
“I think the Presidents Proclamation unwise knowing the temper of the South[.] I know it protracts the war by seeming to court Peace. It to them looks like weakness. I tell them that as they cool off, we warm to the work, that we are just getting ready for the war, and I know the effect is better than to coax them to come back into the Union. . . . All the Southern States will need a pure military Govt. for years after resistance has ceased.”December 30, 1863
Bureaucrat John B. Jones has followed the anti-Davis speeches in the Confederate Congress. “The speech of Mr. Foote, relative to a Dictator, has produced some sensation in the city, and may produce more.”
From Huntsville, Alabama, John King notes the degree to which he, and others are handling the demands of war:
“The central idea of a soldier is to make himself as comfortable as possible. . . . The soldier centers his weak energies on keeping his clothing as dry as possible, plans how to make the best bed he can, how to cook and get the best meal he can, and how to care for his horse so that he will hold his flesh. All other subjects are but secondary affairs and many soldiers overlooked many things that under more favorable circumstances would have been scrutinized with much interest.”December 31, 1863
Confederate hopes are decidedly dimmer at the end of this year than they have been heretofore, but Union victory is hardly assured. Even so, Ohio Colonel Alvin Voris captures the mood of many from his post in South Carolina in a letter to his wife:
“You see by the date that poor 1863 is on its last legs. Three hours more will place it among the things that were. What a year.”