Civil War Sesquicentennial
May June July
Thursday, January 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.”
- Friday, Jan. 2: 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.”
- Saturday, Jan. 3: Bragg’s army begins to pull back from Murfreesboro, ceding the battlefield and ostensibly the victory to Rosecrans in Tennessee.
In an act of clemency, President Lincoln responds to a case that has come to his attention with the note: “Let this woman have her boy out of Old Capitol Prison.”
- Sunday, Jan. 4: 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.
- Monday, Jan. 5: 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.”
- Tuesday, Jan. 6: 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!”
- Wednesday, Jan. 7: 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.
- Thursday, Jan. 8: 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.”
- Friday, Jan.9: 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.
- Saturday, Jan. 10: 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.
- Sunday, Jan. 11: 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.
- Monday, Jan. 12: 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.”
- Tuesday, Jan. 13: 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.
- Wednesday, Jan. 14: The tables turn for the Confederates as one of their gunboats, the Cotton, has to be scuttled near Bayou Teche, Louisiana.
- Thursday, Jan. 15: The commerce raider C.S.S. Florida makes for the open sea from Mobile, Alabama.
- Monday, Jan. 19: 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.
- Tuesday, Jan. 20: 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.”
- Wednesday, Jan. 21: 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.”
- Thursday, Jan. 22: 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.’”
- Friday, Jan. 23: 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.
- Saturday, Jan. 24: 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.
- Sunday, Jan. 25: 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.”
- Monday, Jan. 26: 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.”
- Tuesday, Jan. 27: 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.
- Wednesday, Jan. 28: 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.
- Thursday, Jan. 29: 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.
- Friday, Jan. 30: 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.”
- Saturday, Jan. 31: 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.”
- Sunday, February 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.”
- Monday, Feb. 2: 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.”
- Tuesday, Feb. 3: 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.”
- Wednesday, Feb. 4: 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.”
- Thursday, Feb. 5: “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.”
- Friday, Feb. 6: 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.”
- Saturday, Feb. 7: 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.
- Sunday, Feb. 8: 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.”
- Tuesday, Feb. 10: 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.”
- Wednesday, Feb. 11: 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.
- Thursday, Feb. 12: Cruising the waters of the West Indies, the CSS Florida takes the Jacob Bell with a valuable cargo worth some two million dollars.
- Friday, Feb. 13: 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.”
- Saturday, Feb. 14: 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.”
- Sunday, Feb. 15: 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.”
- Monday, Feb. 16: 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.
- Tuesday, Feb. 17: 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.”
- Wednesday, Feb. 18: 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 circumstances.
- Saturday, Feb. 21: 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.”
- Sunday, Feb. 22: 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.”
- Monday, Feb. 23: President Lincoln has in his hands the resignation of former Secretary of War Simon Cameron as the minister to Russia.
- Tuesday, Feb. 24: 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.
- Wednesday, Feb. 25: 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.”
- Thursday, Feb. 26: 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.
- Friday, Feb. 27: 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.
- Saturday, Feb. 28: 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.
- Sunday, March 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.”
- Monday, Mar. 2: 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.
- Tuesday, Mar. 3: 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.
- Wednesday, Mar. 4: 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.”
- Thursday, Mar. 5: 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.”
- Saturday, Mar. 7: 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.”
- Sunday, Mar. 8: 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.
- Monday, Mar. 9: 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.
- Tuesday, Mar. 10: 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.”
- Wednesday, Mar. 11: 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.”
- Thursday, Mar. 12: 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.”
- Friday, Mar. 13: 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.”
- Saturday, Mar. 14: 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.”
- Sunday, Mar. 15: 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.
- Monday, Mar. 16: 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. ”
- Tuesday, Mar. 17: 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:
“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.”
- Wednesday, Mar. 18: 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.”
- Friday, Mar. 20: 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. . . .”
- Saturday, Mar. 21: 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.”
- Sunday, Mar. 22: 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.
- Monday, Mar. 23: 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.”
- Tuesday, Mar. 24: Basil Duke continues to roam across Kentucky, bringing excitement and uncertainty to Union troops in the Bluegrass.
- Wednesday, Mar. 25: 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.”
- Thursday, Mar. 26: 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.
- Friday, Mar. 27: A day of fasting and prayer for Confederates.
- Saturday, Mar. 28: 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.”
- Sunday, Mar. 29: 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.
- Monday, Mar. 30: Actions in Kentucky, Indian Territory and the coast of North Carolina mark the day.
- Tuesday, Mar. 31: 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.”
- Wednesday, April 1: 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.”
- Thursday, Apr. 2: 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.”
- Friday, Apr. 3: 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.”
- Saturday, Apr. 4: 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.”
- Sunday, Apr. 5: 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.”
- Monday, Apr. 6: 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.”
- Tuesday, Apr. 7: 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.
- Wednesday, Apr. 8: USS Keokuk sinks after enduring after absorbing some ninety rounds of Confederate artillery fire in the previous day’s action.
- Thursday, Apr. 9: 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”
- Friday, Apr. 10: 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.
- Saturday, Apr. 11: 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.
- Sunday, Apr. 12: 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.”
- Monday, Apr. 13: 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.
- Tuesday, Apr. 14: 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.
- Wednesday, Apr. 15: 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.
- Thursday, Apr. 16: 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.
- Friday, Apr. 17: 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.”
- Saturday, Apr. 18: 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.”
- Sunday, Apr. 19: 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.”
- Monday, Apr. 20: 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.
- Tuesday, Apr. 21: 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.”
- Wednesday, Apr. 22: 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.
- Thursday, Apr. 23: Although Union efforts have garnered successes, several Confederate blockade-runners slip into Wilmington, North Carolina.
- Friday, Apr. 24: 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.
- Saturday, Apr. 25: 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.
- Sunday, Apr. 26: John Marmaduke attacks Cape Girardeau, Mo.
- Monday, Apr. 27: Maury’s brief tenure in East Tennessee ends with his replacement by Simon Buckner as commander of the department.
- Tuesday, Apr. 28: 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.”
- Wednesday, Apr. 29: 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.
- Thursday, Apr. 30: 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.
- Friday, May 1: “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!”
- Saturday, May 2: 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.
- Sunday, May 3: “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.
- Monday, May 4: 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.]”
- Tuesday, May 5: 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.
- Wednesday, May 6: 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.
- Thursday, May 7: 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.
- Friday, May 8: 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.”
- Saturday, May 9: 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.
- Sunday, May 10: 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.”
- Monday, May 11: 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.”
- Tuesday, May 12: 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.”
- Wednesday, May 13: 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.
- Thursday, May 14: Grant reaches Jackson, forcing Johnston to evacuate his defenses and relinquish ample military stores gathered there to prevent their capture by hostile troops.
- Friday, May 15: 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.”
- Saturday, May 16: 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.”
- Sunday, May 17: 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.
- Monday, May 18: 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.”
- Tuesday, May 19: 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.”
- Thursday, May 21: 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.”
- Friday, May 22: 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.
- Saturday, May 23: President Davis remains hopeful that Johnston will be able to do something to save Vicksburg.
- Sunday, May 24: 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.
- Monday, May 25: 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.
- Tuesday, May 26: 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.
- Wednesday, May 27: 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.
- Thursday, May 28: The African American 54th Massachusetts Volunteers embark from Boston for the coast of South Carolina.
- Friday, May 29: 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.”
- Saturday, May 30: 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.
- Sunday, May 31: 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.”
- Monday, June 1: 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.”
- Tuesday, June 2: 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.”
- Wednesday, June 3: 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.”
- Thursday, June 4: President Lincoln thinks that the suspension of the Chicago newspaper imposed by General Burnside should be lifted.
- Friday, June 5: 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.
- Saturday, June 6: 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.”
- Sunday, June 7: 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.”
- Monday, June 8: Stuart’s second review comes off, this time with General Lee in attendance.
- Tuesday, June 9: 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.”
- Wednesday, June 10: 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.
- Thursday, June 11: 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.
- Friday, June 12: 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.”
- Sunday, June 14: 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.
- Monday, June 15: 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.
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.
- Tuesday, June 16: 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.”
- Wednesday, June 17: 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.”
- Thursday, June 18: 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.
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.
- Saturday, June 20: West Virginia becomes the 35th state to join the Union.
Clement Vallandigham arrives at Bermuda as he seeks transit to Canada.
- Sunday, June 21: 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.
- Monday, June 22: 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.
- Tuesday, June 23: 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.
- Wednesday, June 24: 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,’”
- Thursday, June 25: Union 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.
- Friday, June 26: 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.
- Saturday, June 27: 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:
“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.”
- Sunday, June 28: 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. . . .”
- Monday, June 29: 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.
- Tuesday, June 30: 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.”