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American Civil War: 1863

American Civil War: 1863

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Visited Armory Square Hospital. Supplied paper and envelopes to all who wished - as usual, found plenty of men who needed those articles. Wrote letters. Saw and talked with two or three members of the Brooklyn 14th Regiment. A poor fellow in Ward D, with a fearful wound in a fearful condition, was having some loose splinters of bone taken from the neighborhood of the wound. The operation was long, and one of great pain, yet, after it was well commenced, the soldier bore it in silence. He sat up, propped, was much wasted, had lain a long time time quiet in one position (not for days but weeks), a bloodless, brown-skinned face, with eyes full of determination.

One young New York man, with a bright, handsome face, had been lying several months from a disagreeable wound, received at Bull Run. A bullet had shot him right through the bladder, hitting him front, low in the belly, and coming out back. He had suffered much - the water came out of the wound, by slow but steady quantities, for many weeks - so that he lay almost constantly in a sort of puddle - and there were other disagreeable circumstances. At present comparatively comfortable, had a bad throat, was delighted with a stick of horehound candy I gave him, with one or two other trifles.

I do not, as some do, regard McClellan either as a traitor or an officer without capacity. He sometimes has bad counselors, but he is loyal, and he has some fine military qualities. I adhered to him after nearly all my constitutional advisers lost faith in him. But do you want to know when I gave him up? It was after the battle of Antietam. The Blue Ridge was then between our army and Lee's. I directed McClellan peremptorily to move on Richmond. It was eleven days before he crossed his first man over the Potomac; it was eleven days after that before he crossed the last man. Thus he was twenty-two days in passing the river at a much easier and more practicable ford than that where Lee crossed his entire army between dark one night and daylight the next morning. That was the last grain of sand which broke the camel's back. I relieved McClellan at once.

Chancellorsville was a dreadful field. The dead were strewn through forest and open farms. The wounded had often to wait for days before succor came. Sometimes it never came. One officer on my personal staff, Captain F. Dessaur, was killed while near me beside Barlow's entrenchments, endeavoring to rally the panic-stricken men. His young wife had besought him to resign and come home to Brooklyn, New York, before the battle commenced. He tendered his resignation, explaining the peculiar circumstances of the case. But we were before the enemy, and soon to be engaged in battle, so that I wrote my disapproval upon his application. Poor fellow, he was slain, and my heart was deeply pained at his loss and in sympathy with his stricken family. Dessaur is an example of that dreadful sacrifice made in the cause of our national unity and of human liberty.

The wounded have begun to arrive from Hooker's command from bloody Chancellorsville. I was down among the first arrivals. The men in charge told me the bad cases were yet to come. If that is so I pity them, for these are bad enough. You ought to see the scene of the wounded arriving on the landing here at the foot of Sixth Street, at night. Two boat loads came about half-past seven last night. the pale, helpless soldiers had been debarked, and lay around on the wharf and neighborhood anywhere. The rain was, probably, grateful to them; at any rate they were exposed to it. The few torches light up the spectacle. All round - on the wharf, on the ground, out on side places - the men are lying on blankets, old quilts, etc., with bloody rags bound round heads, arms, and legs.

The attendants are few, and at night few outsiders also - only a few hard-worked transportation men and drivers. The wounded are getting to be common, and people grow callous. The men, whatever their condition, lie there, and patiently wait till their turn comes to be taken up. The men generally make little or do ado, whatever their sufferings. A few groans that cannot be suppressed, and occasionally a scream of pain as they lift a man into the ambulance. Today, as I write, hundreds more are expected, and tomorrow and the next day more, and so on for many days. Quite often they arrive at the rate of 1000 a day.

In one of the hospitals I find Thomas Haley, company M, 4th New York cavalry. A regular Irish boy, a fine specimen of youthful physical manliness, shot through the legs, inevitably dying. Came over to this country from Ireland to enlist. Is sleeping soundly at this moment (but it is the sleep of death). Has a bullet-hole through the lung. I saw Tom when first brought here, three days since, and didn't suppose he could live twelve hours. Much of the time he sleeps, or half sleeps. I often come and sit by him in perfect silence; he will breathe for ten minutes as softly and evenly as a young babe asleep. Poor youth, so handsome, athletic, with profuse beautiful shining hair. One time as I sat looking at him while he lay asleep, he suddenly, without the least start, awakened, opened his eyes, gave me a long steady look, turning his face very slightly to gaze easier, one long, clear, silent look, a slight sigh, then turned back and went into his doze again.

In one bed a young man, Marcus Small, company K, 7th Maine. Sick with dysentery and typhoid fever. Pretty critical case, I talk with him often. He thinks he will die, looks like it indeed. I write a letter for him to East Livermore, Maine. I let him talk to me a little, but not much, advise him to keep very quiet. Do most of the talking myself, stay quite a while with him, as he holds on to my hand.

Opposite, an old Quaker lady sits by the side of her son, Amer Moore, 2nd U.S. Artillery. Shot in the head two weeks since, very low, quite rational, from hips down paralyzed, he will surely die. I speak a very words to him every day and evening. He answers pleasantly, wants nothing. He told me soon after he came about his home affairs, his mother had been an invalid, and he feared to let her know his condition. He died soon after she came.

I had known Meade before the war, having met him and traveled with him on our northern lakes when he was on engineering duty in that region, and I had seen him frequently after the outbreak of hostilities. As I entered his tent, he extended his hand, and said: "How are you, Howard?" He demurred at any congratulation. He looked tall and spare, weary, and a little flushed, but I knew him to be a good, honest soldier, and gathered confidence and hope from his thoughtful face. To him I appeared but a lad, for he had graduated in 1835 at the Military Academy, nineteen years before me. He won me over by his thoroughness and fidelity than by any show of sympathy or companionship. To me, of course, he stood in the light of an esteemed, experienced regular officer, old enough to be my father, but like a father that one can trust without his showing him any special regard. So we respected and trusted Meade from the beginning.

On 3rd July, about ten o'clock a.m. white flags appeared on a portion of the rebel works. It was a glorious sight to officers and soldiers on the line where these white flags were visible, and the news spread to all parts of the command. The troops felt that their long and weary marches, hard fighting, ceaseless watching by night and day, in a hot climate, exposure to all sorts of weather, to diseases and, worst of all, to the gibes of many Northern papers that came to them saying all their suffering was in vain, that Vicksburg would never be taken, were at last at an end and the Union sure to be saved.

This news, with the victory at Gettysburg won the same day, lifted a great load of anxiety from the minds of the President, his Cabinet and the loyal people all over the North. The fate of the Confederacy was sealed when Vicksburg fell. Much hard fighting was to be done afterwards and many precious lives were to be sacrificed; but the morale was with the supporters of the Union ever after.

It is sometimes said to me that writing and speaking upon the events of war may have a deleterious influence upon youth. I can conceive of two reasons of such a warning - one, that a soldier by his enthusiasm may, even unconsciously, infuse into his writing and speech the war spirit, and thus incite strong desires in younger minds for similar excitements and deeds; and secondly, a soldier deeply affected as he must have been in our great struggle for national existence, may not take sufficient pains in his accounts of historic incidents to allay any spirit of animosity or dissension what may still exist.

But with regard to the first, I think there is need of a faithful portraiture of what we may call the after-battle, a panorama which shows with fidelity the fields covered with dead men and horses; and the wounded, numerous and helpless, stretched on the ground in masses, each waiting his turn; the rough hospitals with hay and straw for bedding, saturated with blood and wet with the rain; horses torn into fragments; every species of property ruthlessly demolished or destroyed - these, which we cannot well exaggerate, and such as these, cry out against the horrors, the hateful ravages, and the countless because of war. They show plainly to our children that war, with its embodied woes and furies, must be avoided, except as the last appeal for existence, or for the rights which are more valuable than life itself.

When I dwell on the scenes on July 4th and 5th at Gettysburg, the pictures exhibiting Meade's men and Lee's though now shadowy from time, are still full of terrible groupings and revolting lineaments.

There is a lively energy, an emulous activity, an exhilarating buoyancy of spirit in all the preparations for an expected battle, and these feelings are intensified into an increased ardor during the conflict; but it is another thing to see our comrades there upon the ground with their darkened faces and swollen forms; another thing to watch the countenances of friends and companions but lately in the bloom of health, now disfigured, torn, and writhing in death; and not less affecting to a sensitive heart to behold the multitude of strangers prone and weak, pierced with wounds, or showing broken limbs and every sign of suppressed suffering, waiting for hours and hours for a relief which is long coming - the relief of the surgeon's knife or of death.

As to the second reason, any feeling of personal resentment towards the late Confederates I would not counsel or cherish. Our countrymen - large numbers of them - combined and fought us hard for a cause. They failed and we succeeded; so that, in an honest desire for reconcilement, I would be the more careful, even in the use of terms, to convey no hatred or reproach for the past. Such are my real convictions, and certainly the intention in all my efforts is not to anger and separate, but to pacify and unite.

Having cleaned up about Vicksburg I suggested to the General-in-Chief the idea of a campaign against Mobile. Halleck disapproved of my proposition so that I was obliged to settle down and see myself put again on the defensive. It would have been an easy thing to capture Mobile at the time I proposed to go there. The troops from Mobile could have inflicted inestimable damage upon much of the country from which Bragg's army and Lee's were yet receiving their supplies. I was so much impressed with this idea that I renewed my request later in July and again about the 1st August. Both requests were refused.

After the capture of Corinth a movable force of eighty thousand men, besides enough to hold all the territory required, could have been set in motion for the accomplishment of any great campaign for the suppression of the rebellion. If Buell had been sent directly to Chattanooga as rapidly as he could march, leaving two or three divisions along the line of the railroad from Nashville forward, he could have arrived with but little fighting, and would have saved much of the loss of life which was afterwards incurred in gaining Chattanooga. Bragg would then not have had time to raise an army to contest the possession of Tennessee and Kentucky; the battles of Stone River and Chickamauga would not necessarily have been fought. These are the negative advantages, if the term negative is applicable, which would probably have resulted from prompt movements after Corinth fell into the possessions of the National forces. the positive results might have been: a bloodless advance to Atlanta, to Vicksburg, or to any other desired point south of Corinth in the interior of Mississippi.

The sacrifice of life on that bloodsoaked field on the fatal 3rd was too awful for the heralding of victory, even for our victorious foe, who, I think, believe as we do, that it decided the fate of our cause. No words can picture the anguish of that roll call - the breathless waits between the responses. The "Here" of those who, by God's mercy, had miraculously escaped the awful rain of shot and shell with a sob - a gasp - a knew - for the unanswered name of his comrade called before his.

Even now I can hear them cheering as I gave the order, "Forward"! I can feel their faith and trust in me and their love for our cause. I can feel the thrill of their joyous voices as they called out all along the line, "We'll follow you, Master George. We'll follow you, we'll follow you." Oh, how faithfully they kept their word, following me on, on to their death, and I, believing in the promised support, led them on, on, on.

Oh, God! I can't write you a love letter today, my Sallie, for, with my great love for you and my gratitude to God for sparing my life to devote to you, comes the overpowering thought of those whose lives were sacrificed - of the brokenhearted widows and mothers and orphans. The moans of my wounded boys, the sight of the dead, upturned faces flood my soul with grief; and here am I, whom they trusted, whom they followed, leaving them on the field of carnage.

To look after the wounded of my command, I visited the places where the surgeons were at work. At Bull Run, I had seen only a very small scale what I was now to behold. At Gettysburg the wounded - many thousands of them - were carried to the farmsteads behind our lines. The houses, the barns, the sheds, and the open barnyards were crowded with moaning and wailing human beings, and still an unceasing procession of stretchers and ambulances was coming in from all sides to augment the number of the sufferers.

A heavy rain set in during the day - the usual rain after a battle - and large numbers had to remain unprotected in the open, there being no room left under roof. I saw long rows of men lying under the eaves of the buildings, the water pouring down upon their bodies in streams.

Most of the operating tables were placed in the open where the light was best, some of them partially protected against the rain by tarpaulins or blankets stretched upon poles. There stood the surgeons, their sleeves rolled up to the elbows, their bare arms as well as their linen aprons smeared with blood, their knives not seldom held between their teeth, while they were helping a patient on or off the table, or had their hands otherwise occupied; around them pools of blood and amputated arms or legs in heaps, sometimes more than man-high.

Antiseptic methods were still unknown at that time. As a wounded man was lifted on the table, often shrieking with pain as the attendants handled him, the surgeon quickly examined the wound and resolved upon cutting off the injured limb. Some ether was administered and the body put in position in a moment. The surgeon snatched his knife from between his teeth, where it had been while his hands were busy, wiped it rapidly once or twice across his blood-stained apron, and the cutting began. The operation accomplished, the surgeon would look around with a deep sigh, and then - "Next!"

As I went down the Avenue, saw a big flaring placard on the bulletin board of a newspaper office, announcing "Glorious Victory for the Union Army!" Meade had fought Lee at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, yesterday and the day before, and repulsed him most signally, taken 3,000 prisoners.

I walked on to Armory Hospital - took along with me several bottles of blackberry and cherry syrup, good and strong, but innocent. Went through several of the wards, announced to the soldiers the news from Meade, and gave them all a good drink of the syrups with ice water. Meanwhile the Washington bells are ringing their sundown peals for Fourth of July, and the usual fusillades of boys' pistols, crackers, and guns.

General Sherman looked upon journalists as a nuisance and a danger at headquarters and in the field, and acted toward them accordingly, then as throughout his great war career. I did not, of course, agree with him at that time as to my own calling, but candor constrains me to say that I had to admit in the end that he was entirely right. For what I then observed, on the one hand, of the natural eagerness of volunteer officers of all grades (of whom so many were aspiring politicians at home) to get themselves favorably noticed in the press, even at the cost of indiscretions, and, on the other hand, of the publishing army news, must lead any unprejudiced mind to the conclusion that the harm certain to be done by war correspondents far outweighs any good they can possibly do. If I were a commanding general I would not tolerate any of the tribe within my army lines.

In the spring of 1863, I had another conversation with President Lincoln upon the subject of the employment of negroes. The question was, whether all the negro troops then enlisted and organized should be collected together and made a part of the Army of the Potomac and thus reinforce it.

We then talked of a favourite project he had of getting rid of the negroes by colonization, and he asked me what I thought of it. I told him that it was simply impossible; that the negroes would not go away, for they loved their homes as much as the rest of us, and all efforts at colonization would not make a substantial impression upon the number of negroes in the country.

Reverting to the subject of arming the negroes, I said to him that it might be possible to start with a sufficient army of white troops, and, avoiding a march which might deplete their ranks by death and sickness, to take in ships and land them somewhere on the Southern coast. These troops could then come up through the Confederacy, gathering up negroes, who could be armed at first with arms that they could handle, so as to defend themselves and aid the rest of the army in case of rebel charges upon it. In this way we could establish ourselves down there with an army that would be a terror to the whole South.

Our conversation then turned upon another subject which had been frequently a source of discussion between us, and that was the effect of his clemency in not having deserters speedily and universally punished by death.

I called his attention to the fact that the great bounties then being offered were such a temptation for a man to desert in order to get home and enlist in another corps where he would be safe from punishment, that the army was being continually depleted at the front even if replenished at the rear.

He answered with a sorrowful face, which always came over him when he discussed this topic: "But I can't do that, General." "Well, then," I replied, "I would throw the responsibility upon the general-in-chief and relieve myself of of it personally."

With a still deeper shade of sorrow he answered: "The responsibility would be mine, all the same."

One of my war time reminiscences comprises the quiet side scene of a visit I made to the First Regiment U.S. Colored Troops, at their encampment on July 11, 1863. Though there is now no difference of opinion to enlisting blacks during the earlier years of the secession war. Even then, however, they had their champions. "That the colored race," said a good authority, "is capable of military training and efficiency, is demonstrated by the testimony of numberless witnesses, and by the eagerness displayed in the raising, organizing, and drilling of African troops. Few white regiments make a better appearance on parade than the First and Second Louisiana Native Guards. The same remark is true of other colored regiments. At Milliken's Bend, at Vicksburg, at Port Hudson, on Morris Island, and wherever tested, they have exhibited determined bravery, and compelled the plaudits alike of the thoughtful and thoughtless soldiery.

I am convinced that nothing but the hand of God can save us or help us as long as we have our present commander. Now, to our wants. Can't you send us General Lee? We need some such great mind. You will be surprised to learn that this army has neither organization nor mobility, and I have doubts if its commander can give it them. When I came here, I hoped to find our commander willing and anxious to do all things that would aid us in our great cause, and ready to receive what aid he could get from his subordinates. It seems that I was greatly mistaken. It seems that he cannot adopt and adhere to any plan or course, whether of his own or of some one else.

I am one of those who believe that it is the mission of this war to free every slave in the United States. I am one of those who believe that we should consent to no peace which shall not be an Abolition peace. I am, moreover, one of those who believe that the work of the American Anti-Slavery Society will not have been completed until the black man of the South, and the black men of the North, shall have been admitted, fully and completely, into the body politic of America. I look upon slavery as going the way of all the earth. It is the mission of the war to put it down.

I know it will be said that I ask you to make the black man a voter in the South. It is said that the coloured man is ignorant, and therefore he shall not vote. In saying this, you lay down a rule for the black man that you apply to no other class of your citizens. If he knows enough to be hanged, he knows enough to vote. If he knows an honest man from a thief, he knows much more than some of our white voters. If he knows enough to take up arms in defence of this Government and bare his breast to the storm of rebel artillery, he knows enough to vote.

All I ask, however, in regard to the blacks, is that whatever rule you adopt, whether of intelligence or wealth, as the condition of voting for whites, you shall apply it equally to the black man. Do that, and I am satisfied, and eternal justice is satisfied; liberty, fraternity, equality, are satisfied, and the country will move on harmoniously.

Federal Government Edit

Governors Edit

    : John Gill Shorter (Democratic) (until December 1), Thomas H. Watts (Democratic) (starting December 1) : Harris Flanagin (Democratic) : Leland Stanford (Republican) (until December 10), Frederick Low (Republican) (starting December 10) : William A. Buckingham (Republican) : William Burton (Democratic) (until January 20), William Cannon (Republican) (starting January 20) : John Milton (Democratic) : Joseph E. Brown (Democratic) : Richard Yates (Republican) : Oliver P. Morton (Republican) : Samuel J. Kirkwood (Republican) : Charles L. Robinson (Republican) (until January 12), Thomas Carney (Republican) (starting January 12) : James F. Robinson (Democratic) (until September 1), Thomas E. Bramlette (Democratic) (starting September 1) : Thomas Overton Moore (Democratic) : Israel Washburn, Jr. (Republican) (until January 7), Abner Coburn (Republican) (starting January 7) : Augustus Bradford (Unionist) : John Albion Andrew (Republican) : Austin Blair (Republican) : Alexander Ramsey (Republican) (until July 10), Henry A. Swift (Republican) (starting July 10) : John J. Pettus (Democratic) (until November 16), Charles Clark (Democratic) (starting November 16) : Hamilton Rowan Gamble (Republican) : Nathaniel S. Berry (Republican) (until June 3), Joseph A. Gilmore (Republican) (starting June 3) : Charles Smith Olden (Republican) (until January 20), Joel Parker (Democratic) (starting January 20) : Horatio Seymour (Democratic) (starting January 1) : Zebulon Baird Vance (Conservative) : David Tod (Republican) : A. C. Gibbs (Republican) : Andrew Gregg Curtin (Republican) :
    • until March 3: William Sprague IV (Republican)
    • March 3-May 26: William C. Cozzens (Democratic)
    • starting May 26: James Y. Smith (Republican)

    Lieutenant Governors Edit

      : John F. Chellis (Republican) (starting December 10), Tim N. Machin (Republican) (starting December 10) : Roger Averill (Republican) : Francis Hoffmann (Republican) : John R. Cravens (Republican) : John R. Needham (Republican) : Joseph Pomeroy Root (Republican) (until January 12), Thomas Andrew Osborn (Republican) (starting January 12) : vacant (until December 10), Richard Taylor Jacob (Democratic) (starting December 10) : Henry M. Hyams (Democratic) : vacant : Henry T. Backus (Republican) :
      • until March 4: Ignatius L. Donnelly (Republican)
      • March 4-July 10: Henry A. Swift (Republican)
      • starting July 10: vacant

      January Edit

      • January 1
        • President Lincoln issues the second executive order of the Emancipation Proclamation, specifying ten Confederate states in which slaves were to be freed. [1]
        • The first claim under the Homestead Act is made for a farm in Nebraska.

        February Edit

        • February 3 – Samuel Clemens first uses the pen name Mark Twain in a Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise.
        • February 10 –
          • The world-famous midgets General Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren get married in New York City P. T. Barnum takes an entrance fee.
          • The first fire extinguisher patent is granted to Alanson Crane in Virginia. [2]

          March Edit

          • March 3
              is organized by the U.S. Congress.
          • The Enrollment Act is signed, leading to the week-long New York Draft Riots.
          • Third Legal Tender Act is passed.
          • Issue of gold certificates is authorized.
          • President Abraham Lincoln approves charter for the National Academy of Sciences.
          • April Edit

            • April 2 – Southern bread riots: In Richmond, Virginia, about 5,000 people, mostly poor women, riot to protest the exorbitant price of bread.
            • April 20 – American Civil War – The Battle of Washington ends inconclusively in Beaufort County, North Carolina.
            • April 21 – Quantrill's Raiders launch a reprisal raid Lawrence, Kansas in the Battle of Lawrence, killing a number of civilians.

            May Edit

            • May 1–4 – American Civil War – Battle of Chancellorsville: General Robert E. Lee defeats Union forces with 13,000 Confederate casualties, among them Stonewall Jackson (lost to friendly fire), and 17,500 Union casualties.
            • May 14 – American Civil War – Battle of Jackson (MS): Union General Ulysses S. Grant defeats Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, opening the way for the siege of Vicksburg.
            • May 18 – American Civil War: The siege of Vicksburg begins (ends Saturday, July 4, when 30,189 Confederate men surrender).
            • May 21
                : The siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana, by Union forces begins.
            • The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is formed in Battle Creek, Michigan.
            • June Edit

              • June 9 – American Civil War – The Battle of Brandy Station, Virginia ends inconclusively.
              • June 14 – American Civil War – Second Battle of Winchester: A Union garrison is defeated by the Army of Northern Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley town of Winchester, Virginia.
              • June 17 – American Civil War – The Battle of Aldie in the Gettysburg Campaign ends inconclusively.
              • June 20 – West Virginia is admitted as the 35th U.S. state (seeHistory of West Virginia).

              July Edit

              • July 1 – 3 – American Civil War: Battle of Gettysburg: Union forces under George G. Meade turn back a Confederate invasion by Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg, the largest battle of the war (28,000 Confederate casualties, 23,000 Union).
              • July 4 – American Civil War: Battle of Vicksburg – Ulysses S. Grant and the Union army capture the Confederate city Vicksburg, Mississippi, after the town surrendered. The siege lasted 47 days.
              • July 9 – The siege of Port Hudson ends and the Union controls the entire Mississippi River for the first time.
              • July 13 – American Civil War – (New York Draft Riots): In New York City, opponents of conscription begin 3 days of violent rioting, which would later be regarded as the worst in the history of the U.S. with around 120 killed.
              • July 18 – American Civil War: The first formal African American military unit, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, unsuccessfully assaults Confederate-held Fort Wagner but their valiant fighting still proves the worth of African American soldiers during the war. Their commander, Colonel Robert Shaw is shot leading the attack and was buried with his men (450 Union, 175 Confederate).
              • July 26 – American Civil War – Morgan's Raid: At Salineville, Ohio, Confederate cavalry leader John Hunt Morgan and 375 of his volunteers are captured by Union forces.
              • July 30 – Indian Wars: Chief Pocatello of the Shoshone tribe signs the Treaty of Box Elder, promising to stop harassing the emigrant trails in southern Idaho and northern Utah.

              August Edit

              • August 8 – American Civil War: Following his defeat in the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee sends a letter of resignation to Confederate President Jefferson Davis (Davis refuses the request upon receipt).
              • August 17 – American Civil War: In Charleston, South Carolina, Union batteries and ships bombard Confederate-held Fort Sumter (the bombardment does not end until Thursday, December 31).
              • August 21 – American Civil War – Battle of Lawrence: Lawrence, Kansas is attacked by William Quantrill's raiders, who kill an estimated 200 men and boys. The raid becomes notorious in the North as one of the most vicious atrocities of the Civil War.

              September Edit

              • September 6 – American Civil War: Confederates evacuate Battery Wagner and Morris Island in South Carolina.
              • September 16 – Robert College of Istanbul–Turkey, the first American educational institution outside the United States, is founded by Christopher Robert, an American philanthropist.

              From President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

              American Civil War July 1863

              The Battle of Gettysburg was fought in July 1863. The Battle of Gettysburg was arguably the most important battle of the American Civil War and is certainly the most famous. However, another important event occurred in July 1863 – the surrender of the southern city of Vicksburg.

              July 1 st : The Confederates believed that the men at Gettysburg who had repulsed their advance on June 30 th were militia and not regular soldiers. The commander of the Confederate force in the locality, Heth, decided to continue to advance on Gettysburg to secure what he deemed to be much-needed shoes. What started as a minor clash soon developed into something more. 2,500 Union infantrymen advanced to Gettysburg to give support and ended up capturing 1,000 Confederate troops and Brigadier-General Archer. More and more Confederate and Union infantry advanced on Gettysburg until seemingly overnight 22,000 Confederate troops and 16,500 Unionists are base d in and around Gettysburg.

              July 2 nd : Believing that he has superior numbers Lee ordered a full-scale attack against Union forces at Gettysburg. However, overnight, the Army of the Potomac had greatly increased its numbers so that Lee now faced 30,000 men. However, some units like the VI Corps had marched 30 miles overnight to be at Gettysburg and were hardly in a fit state to fight. In the initial stages of the Battle of Gettysburg, the upper hand rested with Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.

              July 3 rd : Lee was suffering from dysentery and this may have affected his decision-making. He believed that the Union force had shored up its flanks fearing that Lee would try to outflank them – not an unusual tactic used by Lee in the past. Lee decided to attack the heart of the Union’s forces believing that he could drive a wedge through the Unionists and that once separated they would withdraw in disarray. However, Lee got his calculations wrong. By now, Meade’s Army of the Potomac numbered 85,000 to Lee’s 75,000. At 13.00 the South started an artillery bombardment on Union positions. However, by 15.00, the South’s supply of artillery shells had run low and they could not sustain the bombardment. Lee resorted to a full-scale infantry charge. 13,000 men armed with rifles and bayonets from Major-General Pickett’s division charged Union positions. 7,000 were killed or wounded and the division retreated in disorder. Acknowledging that he had made the wrong decision, Lee, riding among the survivors said, “This was all my fault. It is I that has lost this fight, and you must help me out of it the best you can.”

              On what was a disastrous day for the Confederacy, on July 3 rd Pemberton offered the surrender of Vicksburg. Grant insisted on and got an unconditional surrender of the Confederate forces based in the besieged town.

              July 4 th : Both armies continued to face each other at Gettysburg but neither was inclined to fight. That night Lee ordered a withdrawal: his army had lost 22,000 men killed or wounded in just 3 days – 25% of the Army of Northern Virginia. Meade had lost 23,000 men but had emerged from the Battle of Gettysburg as the victor. The Union was also better able to cope with such losses. Bodies of those killed at Gettysburg took weeks to clear and by November 1863 only 25% of those killed had received a proper burial. The local undertaker claimed that he could only manage to move, clean and bury 100 bodies a day.

              On this day, Vicksburg formally surrendered to Grant.

              July 5 th : Lee retreated with his severely weakened army but no attempt was made by Meade’s Army of the Potomac to pursue them such was the weakened state of his force. While Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg is seen as the turning point in the war, it has to be remembered that he withdrew with many Union prisoners.

              July 6 th : Meade’s army started to move out of Gettysburg and followed Lee’s army but did nothing to actively engage it.

              July 8 th : Port Hudson surrendered. The Confederate force there had been severely weakened by lack of food and fresh water. Only 50% of the Confederate troops there were capable of fighting. They surrendered 20 cannon and 7,500 rifles.

              July 11 th : Meade decided that his men were sufficiently rested after Gettysburg and decided that the Army of the Potomac had to become more proactive. The last thing that Meade wanted was for Lee’s men to cross the Potomac River.

              July 13 th : New York experienced race riots. The first draft in the city was heavily slanted towards the Irish community of New York. They also believed that while they were away fighting African-Americans would take their jobs. This belief was enflamed by the Democrat state governor, Horatio Seymour. Homes of Republican politicians within the city were attacked. Any African-Americans that the mob could find were also attacked.

              That night the Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac River and fooled Meade’s Army of the Potomac by leaving campfires alight giving the appearance that the men from Lee’s army were still in camp.

              July 14 th : riots continued in New York City African Americans were murdered in the streets and city law enforcement agencies were unable to cope. Men from the Army of the Potomac were ordered to the city to restore law and order.

              When President Lincoln was informed that Lee’s army had crossed the Potomac, he very publicly expressed his anger with Meade for allowing this. “We had them within our grasp. We had to only stretch forth our hands and they were ours.”

              July 15 th : the riots in New York were finally brought to an end. However, 1,000 people were killed by the army, which caused huge resentment among the Irish community in the city.

              July 16 th : General Sherman, fresh from his success at Vicksburg, advanced on Jackson, Mississippi. The Confederate forces there, commanded by General Johnston, withdrew.

              July 18 th : Union forces suffered losses in their attempt to capture Battery Wagner, near Charleston. Battery Wagner was a Confederate redoubt about 2,500 metres from Fort Sumter. 1,515 Union men were lost in the attack, including seven senior Union commanders. The Confederacy lost 174 men.

              July 25 th : Union ironclads joined the assault on Battery Wagner. However, shore defences were far better than anticipated by the Unionists.

              July 29 th : Unionists forces occupied the whole of Morris Island except Battery Wagner. If Wagner was captured, the Unionists could start a bombardment of Charleston.

              July 30 th : Lincoln clashed with Jefferson Davis. The head of the Confederacy had announced that any captured African-Americans fighting for the Unionists would be “handed over to the state authorities”. Within the South, it was a capital offence for an African-American to bear arms so the fate of any African-American caught by the South was obvious. Lincoln retaliated by announcing that any African-American executed would be met by the execution of one Southern prisoner-of-war. He also stated that any captured African-American returned to slavery would result on one Southern POW being put to hard labour.

              American Civil War September 1863

              The Battle of Chickamauga was fought in September 1863. The battle was bad for the North in terms of men lost but they could recover from this. For the South, a 25% loss of manpower at Chickamauga was a disaster. September 1863 also saw the North specifically target Chattanooga.

              September 1 st : Six more Union gun ships sailed into Charleston harbour to assist with the attack on the city.

              September 2 nd : Union forces captured Knoxville, Tennessee. This cut in half the railroad from Chattanooga to Virginia and meant that the South would have to supply its men in Virginia via railways through Atlanta.

              September 4 th : General Grant was injured falling from his horse. Observers claimed that it was because he was drunk – possibly with some justification. Allegations of drunkenness were to follow Grant for many years.

              September 5 th : An infantry assault on Battery Wagner started after the “sub-surface torpedo mines” had been cleared. General Rosecrans started his attack on Chattanooga. The British government seized two ironclads being built for the South in Liverpool after strenuous pressure from Washington DC.

              September 6 th : Chattanooga was evacuated on the orders of General Bragg.

              September 7 th : A full-scale infantry assault on Battery Wagner was planned for 09.00. However, by this time the battery had been evacuated.

              September 9 th : President Davis ordered 12,000 troops to Chattanooga, as he believed that the city could not be allowed to fall. They were to come from Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

              September 10 th : The South’s commander at Chattanooga, Bragg, ordered an attack on the Union forces as they approached the city. However, he was unaware of the size of Rosecrans force or where they all were. The dense forests that surrounded the city hid many Union soldiers. Bragg chose not to use trained scouts. He used his own cavalry for reconnaissance and they failed to spot that the Union army approaching Chattanooga had split into three.

              September 12 th : General Polk was ordered by Bragg to attack the Union’s known positions. Polk refused to do so. No one accused Polk of cowardice, as he had a reputation for enjoying battle, such was his fiery temperament. What stopped Polk was his lack of information – he did not know the size of the army he was meant to attack. Polk also knew from past experience that Bragg was rarely keen to gather as much intelligence as was possible. Even Bragg did not know the whereabouts of the main force of Union troops and his subordinate generals started to think that he was bewildered by what was going on around Chattanooga. It did not help matters that Bragg pointed the finger of blame at everyone except himself.

              September 13 th : Bragg was informed by officers on the ground that Rosecrans force was scattered and any one section was open to a concerted attack. Bragg refused to accept this and planned for an attack against a sizeable and concentrated enemy. If he had followed the information given to him by his subordinates, the outcome of the battle to come may have been different. As it was, Bragg’s indecision allowed Rosecrans the time to move his XX Corps commanded by General McCook to the frontline. XX Corps was the furthest away of Rosecrans army. McCook’s men had to march 57 miles to reach where the bulk of Rosecrans force was.

              September 15 th : Bragg planned for an attack on September 18 th . However, chaotic communications within the Confederate camp meant that there were delays in getting this information to the generals in the field.

              September 17 th : Rosecrans correctly guessed what Bragg planned to do. He moved his units accordingly. The move took place at night to ensure that they were not seen.

              September 18 th : Bragg issued his orders to attack. With the additional men, he had an army that had numerical supremacy over Rosecrans – 75,000 troops against 57,000.

              September 19 th : Neither side had made any ground against the other. Just before midnight both Rosecrans and Bragg met with their junior generals to discuss the battle.

              September 20 th : The battle recommenced at Chickamauga. On this day Ben Hardin Helm was killed fighting for the South. He was brother-in-law to President Lincoln’s wife. A major misinterpretation of orders sent by Rosecrans left the Union’s middle front line exposed to attack after the men who had been there were moved to the Union’s left flank – not what Rosecrans had wanted. The attack duly came when three Southern divisions attacked and inflicted major casualties on the Union forces in front of them. The senior Union commander in the field, Major-General Thomas stopped the rout from becoming a disaster by a valiant and well co-ordinated rear guard action that earned him the nickname “The Rock of Chickamauga”. The battle cost the Union 1,656 dead, 9,749 wounded and 4774 captured – 28% of Rosecrans’ total force. The South lost 2,389 killed, 13,412 wounded and 2,003 missing – 24% of the Army of Tennessee’s total.

              September 21 st : Union forces headed for Chattanooga. Observer’s for Bragg sent him word that Rosecrans Army of the Cumberland was disorganised and scattered and that a robust chase could destroy what was left. Brigadier-General Nathan Bedford Forrest wrote to Bragg “every hour (lost) is worth a thousand men”. Bragg did not seem to fully comprehend the magnitude of the South’s victory. Some elements of the Confederate Army did attempt a follow up but it was piecemeal and Rosecrans was let off of the hook.

              September 22 nd : Rosecrans informed President Lincoln about the scale of his defeat. Lincoln had put a great deal on capturing Chattanooga and viewed Rosecrans’ failure as a bitter blow.

              September 23 rd : Rosecrans informed Lincoln that he could hold Chattanooga unless he had to face a much superior force in terms of numbers.

              September 24 th : Lincoln, believing that Chattanooga had to be held, ordered that 20,000 extra men should be sent there. However, supplying Rosecrans would be problematic, as Bragg had captured Lockout Valley cutting in half the Union’s supply line.

              September 25 th : Lincoln described Rosecrans as “confused and stunned like a duck hit on the head”. 20,000 Union troops started their journey to support Rosecrans.

              September 28 th : Rosecrans brought charges against some of his commanders – Generals McCook and Crittenden. Both were ordered to face a court of inquiry. Conditions in Chattanooga were becoming worse as food was in short supply.

              September 29 th : General U Grant was ordered to direct towards Chattanooga as many men as he could spare. Grant had pre-empted this command and sent a force led by Sherman.

              American Civil War March 1863

              By March 1863 the American Civil War had been going for nearly two years and the South was experiencing major economic problems as a result of the North’s blockade of its ports. However, the North was not without its own problems as Lincoln had to sign into law what was effectively a call-up of all able-bodied men between 20 and 45 – a move that was not a popular one among the North’s male population.

              March 1 st : Lincoln met with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to discuss future military appointments.

              March 2 nd : Congress approved the President’s list of promotions but also dismissed 33 officers for a variety of offences.

              March 3 rd : Both Senate and House passed The Enrolment Act. All able-bodied men between 20 and 45 were to serve for three years. The act was unpopular with the public because of its compulsion. Congress must have sensed this as in 1863 only 21,000 men were conscripted and by the end of the war conscription only accounted for a total of 6% of the North’s army. Congress also suspended habeas corpus on this day – much to the anger of the Democrats in Congress.

              March 6 th : One of Hooker’s attempts to develop the Army of the Potomac was to ensure that it had the most modern weapons available. By this day, his men were starting to be equipped with the Sharp’s breech-loading carbine. This rifle gave Hooker’s army unrivalled firepower at close range.

              March 10 th : Such was the problem of desertion across all armies of the Union, that Lincoln pronounced an amnesty on this day for all those who were absent without leave. Any deserter who returned to duty before April 1 st would not be punished.

              March 13 th : 62 women workers were killed in an explosion in a munitions factory near Richmond. The Confederacy was to become more and more reliant on female workers as the war progressed.

              March 24 th : The last Union attempt to take Vicksburg failed. The Mississippi River was very high for this time of the year and it made navigation very difficult. Grant wanted to use the many waterways that surrounded Vicksburg to his advantage – but his plan failed.

              March 26 th : West Virginia voted to emancipate its slaves.

              March 30 th : Lincoln announced that April 30 th would be a day of prayer and fasting throughout the Union.

              America’s Civil War: Colonel Benjamin Grierson’s Cavalry Raid in 1863

              April 17, 1863, dawned with the promise of an almost perfect spring day. The Federal cavalry camp at La Grange, Tennessee, had been alive with activity since early morning. Anxious soldiers awaited the arrival by train of Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson, commander of the 1st Brigade of the Cavalry Division, XVI Corps, Army of Tennessee. Summoned back from a visit to his family, Grierson had spent the late evening hours conferring with his superiors in Memphis. When he arrived in camp, he brought welcome news: the long inactivity of winter would soon be relieved, and not merely by the tedium of scouting and reconnaissance. His orders included nothing less than an invasion of Mississippi–one of the most daring cavalry raids of the Civil War.

              Grierson’s men were not the only ones preparing to march that day. Federal forces were in motion across the entire Western front from Memphis to Nashville. Major General Ulysses S. Grant planned to move his army across the Mississippi River from Louisiana to gain a better position from which to assault the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi. To mask this movement, he ordered infantry and artillery from Tennessee to push south into northwestern Mississippi along the Coldwater River. At the same time, Colonel Abel Streight and 1,000 mounted infantry were sent to disrupt Confederate communications in northern Alabama. While these maneuvers occupied Confederates, Grant proposed to send a strong mounted column into the heart of Mississippi to smash railroads and divert the attention of Confederate cavalry from his attempt to cross the river.

              To execute this thrust, Grant selected Grierson, a 36-year-old former music teacher and storekeeper from Jacksonville, Illinois. Grierson had proven himself a reliable and resourceful cavalry commander while fighting guerrillas in west Tennessee. Major General William T. Sherman had recommended him as ‘the best cavalry commander I have yet had. Tall and lean, the bearded Grierson possessed an iron constitution and a modest and unassuming demeanor that earned him the respect of men under his command.

              That command consisted of 1,700 veterans from the 6th and 7th Illinois and the 2d Iowa Cavalry regiments. For speed and surprise, Grierson stripped his command down to essentials. The haversacks his men carried across their saddle pommels held five days’ light rations of hardtack, coffee, sugar, and salt. He instructed company commanders to make those rations last at least 10 days. Each soldier also carried a carbine, saber, and 100 rounds of ammunition. The only carriages were those bearing the six two-pounder Woodruff guns of Captain Jason B. Smith’s Battery K of the 1st Illinois Artillery.

              Grierson’s chief concern was the broken-down condition of his horses. Some men in the 2d Iowa rode mules appropriated from the brigade’s wagon train. The expedition would rely heavily on the Mississippi countryside for new mounts, as well as food and forage.

              Despite Grierson’s worries, a lighthearted mood prevailed among his Yankee horsemen. The men seemed to feel highly elated, and, as they marched in columns of twos, some were singing, others speculating as to our destination, recalled Sergeant Richard Surby. They would have been surprised to learn their commander had only a vague notion of their goal. Grierson had orders only to disable the section of the Southern Railroad that ran east from Jackson to an intersection with the Mobile & Ohio Railroad at Meridian, just north of Enterprise. Beyond that, his movements had been left to his own discretion. He carried in his uniform pocket a small compass, a map of Mississippi, and a written description of the countryside. Success or failure would depend largely on his skill and ingenuity.

              The Federals crossed the Tallahatchie River on April 18 and pressed south through torrential rains the following day. They encountered almost no resistance at first, but news of the raid soon reached Confederates in the state. Lieutenant Colonel C.R. Barteau raced north along the Mobile & Ohio Railroad with the 2d Tennessee Battalion, Colonel J.F. Smith’s militia regiment, and Major W.M. Inge’s battalion. Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, commanding the defense of Vicksburg, called on district commanders James R. Chalmers and Daniel Ruggles to mobilize Confederate cavalry in northern Mississippi.

              The Federals plodded southward on the 19th over roads that were fast becoming quagmires. That evening they reached Pontotoc, where they halted only long enough to destroy government property and sift through captured documents abandoned by a retreating militia company. They went into camp about five miles south of Pontotoc. Despite the deteriorating roads, the hard-riding horsemen were maintaining a brisk pace of 30 miles per day.

              To help keep up that pace, Grierson stripped his command of dead weight. In a midnight inspection he personally weeded out 175 of the least effective troopers. At 3:00 a.m. on April 20, Major Hiram Love of the 2d Iowa led this Quinine Brigade–along with prisoners, broken down horses, and a single artillery piece–out of the Federal camp toward La Grange. By moving in columns of fours under cover of darkness, Grierson hoped Love would deceive local residents into thinking the entire command had turned back.

              With Love on his way north, the main column resumed its march. The force encamped shortly after dark on the 20th. In four days the raiders had encountered only token resistance, but Barteau’s Confederate cavalry was fast closing in. They had entered Pontotoc well behind the Federal force on the morning of the 20th, but closed the gap with hard riding that night. By daybreak on the 21st they were scant hours behind the Union horsemen.

              Grierson did not know how close his pursuers were, but he certainly expected pursuit. To obscure his trail, he detached Hatch’s 500-man 2d Iowa–nearly a third of his command–and a gun from Smith’s battery. Hatch, a bombastic 31-year-old former lumberman, left the main column with instructions to strike the Mobile & Ohio Railroad near West Point, destroying its tracks as far south as Macon, about halfway between West Point and Meridian. He was then to swing through Alabama, doing further damage to rail and telegraph lines during his return to La Grange.

              Before joining Hatch’s detachment, Company E of his 2d Iowa and the two-pounder artillery piece followed the main column three or four miles toward Starkville. There the Iowans wheeled about and returned in columns of fours, obliterating hoofprints in the opposite direction. They turned the tiny cannon at four different spots in the road to leave distinct sets of wheel impressions, suggesting that four different cannon had turned. With a little luck, pursuing Confederates would pick up the freshest tracks in the thick mud and conclude that Grierson’s entire force had turned east toward the Mobile & Ohio.

              Hatch’s diversion worked flawlessly. Barteau, arriving at the junction shortly before noon, reported, My advance guard fired upon a party of 20 of the enemy, supposed to be the rear guard. This party fled and took the Starkville road. The enemy had divided, 200 going to Starkville and 700 continuing their march on the West Point road. Barteau turned eastward in pursuit.

              At 2:00 p.m. Barteau fell upon the Iowans’ flanks and rear two miles northwest of Palo Alto. After a fierce skirmish, the Confederates withdrew. Their position, however, covered the road leading south to West Point and Macon, compelling Hatch to reevaluate his orders. He believed it was important to divert the enemy’s cavalry from Colonel Grierson, so his Hawkeyes began a slow withdrawal northward, drawing the pursuing Rebels along with them. Barteau would finally break off contact on the 24th.

              Meanwhile, the 950 troopers of the 6th and 7th Illinois and Smith’s four remaining guns raced southward. Shortly after noon on the 21st, a half-dozen horsemen at the head of the column shed their Union blue in favor of civilian garb. Each cradled a shotgun or long rifle. The brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel William D. Blackburn of the 7th and commanded by Quartermaster Sergeant Richard W. Surby, this unit of Butternut Guerrillas would serve as the eyes and ears of the Yankee raiders.

              The next day Grierson again focused his attention on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad that paralleled his line of march 25 miles to the east. Uncertain of Hatch’s fate, he dispatched Captain Henry C. Forbes and 35 men of the 7th’s Company B to disrupt the tracks at Macon.

              Forbes found both Macon and the tracks outside it too well guarded for his small band to approach. He turned back in search of Grierson’s trail, leaving the railroad intact. Although his mission failed, it drew attention away from the main body of Federals and focused Rebel eyes on the railroad. During the night of April 22, 2,000 troops moved north by rail from Meridian to protect Macon from assault by a force estimated at 5,000 Union troops.

              While the Confederates rushed to protect Macon, Grierson passed swiftly south. News of the Yankee raid had not yet reached the region, and townspeople cheered the dust-covered horsemen who galloped through Louisville shortly after dark on the 22d, mistaking them for Confederate cavalry.

              Grierson was almost within striking distance of the Southern Railroad by the night of the 23d. After conferring with his field officers about 10:00 p.m., he sent Blackburn and about 200 officers and men to seize the depot at Newton Station, just south of Decatur, tear up the track and telegraph line, and inflict all the damage possible upon the enemy. The main column followed in Blackburn’s trail within an hour.

              Blackburn’s troopers approached Newton Station just as the first rays of sunlight spread across the eastern horizon on the morning of the 24th. Surby and two butternut-clad companions casually slipped into the outskirts of town, where they learned a train was expected soon. The shrieking whistle of a westbound freight train sent one of the scouts speeding back to alert Blackburn, who had barely concealed his men behind the depot buildings when the 25-car freight puffed laboriously into the station. As the locomotive drew abreast of the depot, blue-clad soldiers burst from the shadows and bounded into the cab. With pistols drawn, they ordered the startled engineer to stop the engine.

              No sooner had they diverted the train from the main track and scurried back into hiding than a second locomotive pulled slowly into the depot from the west. Using the same tactic, the raiders seized 13 cars crammed with weapons, ammunition, and supplies. A passenger car disgorged several distraught civilians fleeing from besieged Vicksburg with their furniture and other personal belongings. After removing the private property, Blackburn’s jubilant soldiers sent flames dancing down the length of both strings of captured cars. Soon, the deep reverberations of shells erupting in the intense heat reached Grierson’s ears five miles away and brought the main Federal column charging briskly to the rescue. Grierson was happy to find the noise was caused not by a pitched battle, but by the destruction of Rebel ammunition. He was less pleased to observe many of his troopers filling their canteens from a captured whiskey barrel.

              In addition to the 38 railroad cars and their contents, 500 stand of arms and a large quantity of clothing went up in flames at Newton Station. Explosions ruptured the captured locomotives, and fire consumed the depot. Amid the smoking ruins, Grierson paroled 75 prisoners. After spreading the false rumor that the raiders were headed for Enterprise on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, Grierson was back in the saddle and southbound by 2:00 p.m. The riders would not reign up to sleep until near midnight, about 48 hours after their last bivouac.

              During the night, Grierson contemplated his next move. Aware that Rebel forces were converging to block his escape through northern Mississippi, he decided to feint westward and then proceed south slowly, resting his men and animals, collecting food, and gathering information. He would then make up his mind whether to return to La Grange by way of Alabama, or to drive south and try to join with Union forces on the Mississippi River.

              The band spent April 25 on the march, stopping near nightfall. Grierson learned from informants that a Rebel force was en route from Mobile to intercept the Yankee raiders. To verify the report and further confuse the enemy, Grierson sent Samuel Nelson, one of Surby’s resourceful scouts, to cut telegraph wires near Forest Station on the Southern Railroad and perhaps destroy a railroad bridge or trestle. Slipping out of camp around midnight, Nelson approached within seven miles of the railroad, where he stumbled upon a regiment of Confederate horsemen on the trail of Grierson’s column. With his benign disguise enhanced by a slight stutter, Nelson passed himself off as an unwilling guide for the Yankee cavalry. He told the Rebels they faced a unit that was 1,800 strong and headed east toward the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. Satisfied with Nelson’s story, the Confederates released him and headed off in pursuit of the phantom force.

              In fact, Grierson had decided to continue southwest and strike the New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern Railroad at Hazelhurst, disrupting the movement of troops and supplies between Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Following a good night’s rest and with a full supply of forage and provisions, Grierson’s raiders broke camp at 6:00 a.m. on April 26. At Raleigh, Surby’s scouts surprised the sheriff and confiscated $3,000 in Confederate currency. After struggling through a torrential downpour in nearly impenetrable darkness, the sodden troopers halted on the banks of the Strong River outside Westville, 40 miles from their previous night’s encampment. While the weary main column paused for a rest, Colonel Edward Prince and four companies of his 7th Illinois raced ahead to seize the Pearl River Ferry.

              Rested and fed, the main column broke camp about midnight. As the clatter of iron-soled hooves echoed across the wooden planks of the Strong River bridge, a wave of shouts and cheers rolled up from the tail of the long column. Grierson shifted in his saddle just as three beaming horsemen reined up sharply at his elbow. Captain Forbes presents his compliments, an excited trooper blurted out, and begs to be allowed to burn his bridges for himself. Astonished and amused, the smiling colonel posted a guard to meet the lost souls of Company B.

              Forbes had spent the previous five days engaged in a frantic attempt to overtake the main body of Federal cavalry. He had been misled by the false information planted at Newton Station and veered eastward. At Enterprise, on the Mobile & Ohio, Forbes bluffed his way out of a tight spot by demanding the surrender of the garrison in the name of Major General Grierson. Confederate reports of the number of the Federal cavalry raiders had varied widely the presence of a major general would have meant it was quite a large force. As the Rebel commander weighed his options, the Yankee captain backed out of harm’s way. Forbes later learned his gambit had drawn Major General W.W. Loring to Enterprise, pinning down three regiments of potential pursuers while Grierson escaped in the opposite direction.

              The unexpected presence of Confederates in Enterprise had alerted Forbes that Grierson had not taken that path. After a 34-hour ride through rain-shrouded forests, fording swollen streams and following a trail of fire-blackened bridges, Forbes miraculously found his way back to the column. While guards awaited his company at the Strong River crossing, the advance force under Prince approached the Pearl River at two o’clock that morning. Finding the ferry swinging from its mooring on the opposite shore, Prince summoned his best Southern accent and commandeered the flatboat.

              The last of Prince’s horsemen clambered up the steep opposite bank of the river as day broke, and Colonel Grierson arrived at the landing with the rest of the Federal column. Learning that Prince had intercepted a courier bearing orders for the destruction of the ferry, Grierson hurried up the crossing by crowding men and mounts 24 at a time onto the flatboat. As soon as the first boatload touched the opposite shore, a detachment rushed several miles upstream to lie in ambush for an armored transport rumored to be anchored in the vicinity. The Rebel gunboat failed to appear and, with the arrival of Captain Forbes’s errant company, the entire force was safely across the river by early afternoon.

              Suspecting that Confederate authorities in Jackson, barely 40 miles to the north, were aware of his presence, Grierson had started Prince’s battalion toward Hazelhurst while he personally supervised the Pearl River crossing. Surby’s scouts led the way and directed a steady stream of prisoners back to Prince’s trailing column. Four miles outside Hazelhurst, Prince handed Surby a dispatch addressed to Pemberton, informing him that the Yankees had advanced to Pearl River and finding the ferry destroyed they could not cross and had left taking a northeasterly course. Minutes later, two butternut-clad strangers strode confidently into a circle of Rebel officers idling away time in the Hazelhurst depot. They calmly handed their message to the operator and watched as the misleading telegram raced across the wires to Confederate headquarters.

              The pair pressed their luck, though, when they decided to take a meal at the hotel. As they approached the square, a prisoner who had been captured and released by the raiders on the previous day suddenly appeared brandishing a sword and a pistol, and shouting for help in stopping them d—-d Yankees. With revolvers drawn, the unmasked scouts wheeled in their tracks and spurred their mounts into a blind dash out of town. Collecting the rest of Surby’s Butternuts, they raced back through a torrential midday downpour to the Hazelhurst depot, only to discover its occupants had scattered, taking the telegraph key with them. In their haste, however, the Confederates had neglected to countermand the forged dispatch.

              Following closely behind Surby, Prince’s vanguard thundered down the empty streets. In a familiar movement, the blue-coated troopers fanned out to seal escape routes. At that moment, the southbound Jackson train chugged slowly into the outskirts of Hazelhurst. The conductor sounded the alarm at his first glimpse of a blue-clad picket posted at the bridge north of town. Brakes screeched and the engineer brought the locomotive to an abrupt halt and reversed its course. Prince watched in agonized frustration as the train backed rapidly up the tracks, carrying its cargo to safety–a cargo that included seventeen commissioned officers and eight millions in Confederate money, which was en route to pay off troops in Louisiana and Texas.

              After discharging ineffectual shots at the fast-retreating train, Prince’s men turned to matters close at hand. Gathering together commissary and quartermaster stores, along with four carloads of powder and ammunition, the Yankee raiders ran their captured booty a safe distance out of town and ignited it. Other squads of Federal soldiers raced north and south along the tracks tearing up rails, demolishing trestlework, and disrupting telegraph wires.

              The thud of captured artillery shells exploding in the bonfire startled Grierson as he approached Hazelhurst from the east. With orders to trot, gallop, march echoing down the column, the horsemen flew to the aid of their comrades, only to discover they had been sold again. Sharing a good laugh, Grierson’s troopers broke ranks and retired to the hotel, where they partook of a banquet of captured food. With full bellies, they remounted and rode westward out of town, toward the river. All evening they fended off Rebel vedettes who harassed the front and flanks of their column.

              That night and the following morning, Confederate forces converged on the Yankee horsemen from the north and west. Learning of Grierson’s appearance at Hazelhurst, Pemberton threw his forces into action. He most feared that the enemy would swing back to the northwest, cross the Big Black River, and strike again at the Southern Railroad, interrupting communications between Jackson and Vicksburg. Unable to second-guess the elusive Grierson, he restlessly maneuvered far-flung cavalry in a fruitless effort to defend all possible targets at once. He dispatched a battalion of cavalry under Captain W.W. Porter south from Jackson along the New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern Railroad. He ordered Colonel Wirt Adams’s cavalry at Grand Gulf to move eastward to cut the Federals off from Port Gibson. Until Adams arrived on the scene, Colonel R.V. Richardson, the unorthodox leader of the 1st Tennessee Partisan Rangers, would hold overall command of the operation. Another courier carried orders to Barteau at Prairie Mound to move without delay to Hazelhurst.

              With Confederates closing in, Grierson broke camp at 6:00 a.m. on the 28th. Dry, hard roadbeds were a welcome change from the muddy quagmires of the past several days. Near mid-morning, he sent Captain George W. Trafton and four companies of the 7th east to strike the railroad at Bahala. Trafton’s detachment returned before dawn on April 29, bringing Grierson the dismaying news that he was poised in the jaws of a Rebel trap. Its mission of destruction at Bahala completed, the battalion was approaching the Federal camp at Union Church around 1:00 a.m. when Sergeant Surby and Private George Steadman stumbled upon Rebel pickets belonging to old Wirt Adams’ cavalry. The soldiers revealed that when reinforcements arrived in the morning, Adams intended to give the ‘Yanks’ h—-l between Union Church and Fayette, a few miles to the west.

              Grierson summoned Colonel Prince, Lieutenant Colonels Blackburn and Reuben Loomis, and Adjutant Samuel Woodward to a council of war. Surby estimated Confederate forces in the vicinity at 400 cavalry, supported by a battery of artillery. Even as they conferred, Adams was passing around the Union flank to join with Captain S.B. Cleveland’s 100-man cavalry force west of Union Church. The trap was closing, but Grierson and his officers had a daring response in mind.

              At 6:00 a.m. the Yankee troopers boldly rode into the teeth of the Rebel ambush. Then, a short distance outside Union Church, the main column veered sharply from its westward course toward the Mississippi River and headed southeast toward Brookhaven, leaving behind a small company to occupy the Rebels on the westward road. After waiting several hours, Adams realized his trap was sprung. The frustrated colonel informed Pemberton he was marching from Fayette with five additional companies to intercept the enemy’s southward movement.

              While Adams stewed in his embarrassment, the Federal raiders followed a confused maze of back roads through piny woods. Considerable dodging was done the first three or four hours’ march of this day, Surby recalled. I do not think we missed traveling toward any point of the compass. In the western distance, the Yankee soldiers could hear the leaden reverberations of Union Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter’s gunboats bombarding Grand Gulf. With Adams’s cavalry squarely between him and the river, however, Grierson could not join Porter.

              Instead the raiders pushed south and thundered down the dusty streets of Brookhaven, startling dazed residents. While the 7th rounded up prisoners, Loomis’s 6th charged a conscript camp concealed in a grove of live oak a mile and a half south of town and found it vacant. The previous day, Pemberton had ordered Major M.R. Clark to evacuate the camp.

              As the 6th destroyed abandoned arms, ammunition, and stores, Captain John Lynch’s two companies tore up track and trestlework. Loomis’s troopers returned to Brookhaven just as flames enveloped the depot, a railroad bridge, and a dozen freight cars. An officer and 20 men armed with buckets prevented fires from spreading to civilian property.

              Some of the hardest work of the day fell to Lieutenants Samuel L. Woodward and George A. Root, the young adjutants of the 6th and 7th Illinois regiments. Civilian morale, never high in some of Mississippi’s southern counties, bordered on open disloyalty. After paroling over 200 officers, soldiers, and able-bodied citizens, Woodward was astonished to see a flood of military-age men lining up to receive paroles: slips of paper that would exempt them from military service until exchanged. Many who had escaped [conscription] and were hiding out were brought in by their friends to obtain one of the valuable documents, Woodward recalled.

              The Yankee raiders had covered almost 40 miles since dawn and were happy to bed down outside town that night. The next morning, still uncertain about events along the river, Grierson decided to continue tearing up track along the New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern. An easy two-mile ride brought him to Bogue Chitto, a forlorn cluster of perhaps a dozen buildings straddling the railroad. In short order, his raiders destroyed the depot and freight cars, ripped out rails and trestlework, demolished a bridge across Bogue Chitto Creek, and returned to the saddle to head south.

              From Bogue Chitto, Grierson pushed on toward Summit, some 20 miles south. To the raiders’ surprise, that small community welcomed them with open arms. Surby judged Grierson’s popularity at least equal to Pemberton’s, and the colonel himself recalled a local woman who promised that if the north should win and I should ever run for president, that her husband should vote for me or she would certainly endeavor to get a divorce from him.

              The blue-coated soldiers lingered most of the afternoon among these congenial civilians. After the townspeople had helped themselves to government supplies, the troopers rolled 25 freight cars a safe distance out of town and put them to the torch. Noticing the depot’s proximity to private residences, Grierson ordered the building spared. As at Brookhaven, the regimental adjutants handed out paroles to prisoners captured during the day and to civilians eligible for conscription into Confederate service.

              At this seemingly harmless village, Grierson confronted an enemy more dangerous…than Wirt Adams’ Cavalry. Several enterprising troopers had uncovered a cache of Louisiana rum hidden in a swamp about a mile outside of town. Grierson dispatched an officer and a squad of men to investigate. They staved the heads of 30 or 40 barrels of the potent brew and watched the balm of a thousand flowers mingle with the Mississippi clay.

              Near sunset, the raiders filed out of Summit. Having learned nothing of Grant’s army, Grierson had finally concluded to make for Baton Rouge. His men moved southwest, away from the broken railroad and toward Liberty. They bivouacked near midnight, 15 miles southwest of Summit.

              While the Federal troopers caught a few fitful hours of sleep, Confederate cavalry struggled desperately to overtake them. After an agonizing nine-hour delay in leaving Jackson, Richardson had finally locked onto Grierson’s trail near Hazelhurst on the 29th. Following a path of burned depots and twisted rails, the Rebel colonel reached Summit at 3:00 a.m. on May 1, nine hours behind his prey. The Yankees had planted the suggestion there that they were headed for Magnolia and Osyka, the next stations on the railroad. Receiving that news, the eager Confederates pressed southward in the hope of falling upon the Union column’s rear.

              Wirt Adams, meanwhile, had marched to Liberty after failing to trap the Yankees at Union Church. On the evening of April 30 his men were camped within five miles of Grierson. Like Richardson, he hoped to do battle with the Federals near Osyka.

              At the same time, other Confederate units were riding northeast from Port Hudson. Colonel W.R. Miles transferred his Louisiana Legion to Clinton on the 29th and set out for Osyka the next day. Lieutenant Colonel George Gantt’s 9th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion had been ordered to the vicinity of Tangipahoa. For several days, Gantt responded to one contradictory report after another regarding the Yankees’ position and destination before finally settling in near Osyka, covering the roads to Liberty and Clinton.

              In the midst of all this confusion, it would be easy to overlook a small detachment of Wingfield’s Battalion of the 9th Louisiana Partisan Rangers–a mere 80 men under the command of Major James De Baun. On the 28th De Baun had moved to intercept the Union cavalrymen at Woodville. Two days later, he was ordered to reinforce either Miles or Gantt at Osyka. Augmenting his command with 35 men of Gantt’s battalion, De Baun set out immediately and by 11:30 a.m. on May 1 was camped at the Wall’s Bridge crossing of the Tickfaw River, eight miles west of Osyka.

              Only vaguely aware of the Rebel forces closing in on him, Grierson woke his men to a breathtaking dawn on May 1. As the first narrow slivers of sunlight sliced through the branches of towering pines, the Illinois troopers mounted their horses and resumed their march. The command felt inspired, Surby recalled, and various were the conjectures as to what point on the Mississippi we would make. Oblivious to the glories of nature, their commander concentrated on throwing his pursuers off the scent. He ordered an abrupt turn to the south, and his raiders disappeared into the dense woods. After an arduous ride, interrupted by frequent halts to lift the small cannon over fallen timbers, the bruised and scratched horses and men finally stumbled onto a little-used path and resumed their march at a brisk trot.

              Near midday, they emerged on the Clinton and Osyka road just west of the point where Wall’s Bridge crossed the Tickfaw River. Fresh hoofprints indicated a large body of cavalry had passed east just a short time earlier. Dense underbrush, however, obscured the Tickfaw crossing a few miles distant, and the road itself disappeared from view beyond a sharp bend approaching the bridge.

              Suspecting an ambush, Grierson sent his Butternut Guerrillas to scout the bridge, while the main column remained concealed behind the tree-covered bend in the road. Surby learned from Confederate pickets that a cavalry force was bivouacked along the river bank. At that moment, a shot rang out behind him. Seizing the disconcerted Rebels, Surby rushed them to the rear, where he learned that the alarm had sounded during a chance encounter between Union and Confederate stragglers at a nearby plantation house.

              Undaunted by the close call, Surby’s scouts returned to the place where they had stumbled upon the Rebel outpost. With similar luck, they captured Confederate Captain E.A. Scott and his orderly, who revealed that De Baun’s 115-man battalion had reached the river crossing scarcely 15 minutes before the raiders’ arrival. Alarmed by the same shot that had alerted Surby, De Baun had deployed his dismounted troopers in an ambush.

              Although aware of each other’s presence, Grierson and De Baun both maneuvered blindly because of the sharp bend in the road. Grierson hoped to avoid an engagement much of his success so far had been the result of surprise and subterfuge. Reluctant to waste precious time and lives, he planned to approach, show a bold front, feel out the enemy’s strength, and then pass rapidly around his flank.

              He erred, however, in choosing Blackburn of the 7th to execute this delicate maneuver. Itching for a fight, the brash and excitable officer called to Surby: Bring along your scouts and follow me, and I’ll see where those Rebels are. Spurring their horses, Surby and three Butternuts dashed off in pursuit. Dressed in full Federal uniform and rapidly outpacing his escort, the burly Blackburn seemed oblivious to the scattered gunfire his approach to the Tickfaw crossing summoned.

              The fire increased as the Federal horses pounded across the narrow plank bridge. Blackburn’s mount, pierced by a dozen balls, collapsed, pinning its wounded rider to the ground. Close behind Blackburn, another horse reeled and fell, throwing a butternut-clad Yankee hard against the wooden planks. A ball burned across the neck of Surby’s mount and buried itself in the sergeant’s thigh. Clinging desperately to his reins, he wheeled around and retreated across the bullet-pocked bridge.

              In his dash to safety, Surby passed Lieutenant William H. Stiles racing forward with the 12-man vanguard of the Federal column. Charging blindly, the group made it to the opposite bank of the river before reeling under a deadly volley from unseen carbines. A second assault likewise withered under the galling enemy fire, and the battered Yankee troopers scrambled back across the river.

              Grierson soon arrived on the field, dismounted and deployed companies A and D of the 7th to the left and right of the bridge. While those men pinned down the Rebel marksmen, Smith’s artillery began firing round shot and canister into the woods. When the replying volleys abated, Union skirmishers advanced across Wall’s Bridge. The outnumbered Confederates had abandoned their position.

              The fierce skirmish had cost Grierson one dead and five wounded. Two of the latter, including the overzealous Blackburn, were mortally wounded. De Baun placed the Confederate loss at 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, and 6 privates, all captured by Surby’s scouts.

              As a burial detail interred Private George Reinhold of the 7th regiment’s Company G, soldiers carefully removed the wounded to the nearby Newman plantation. Surgeon Erastus D. Yule of the 2d Iowa helped Surby’s comrades replace the injured sergeant’s butternut garb with a proper Federal uniform, at least ensuring the clever scout would not be executed as a spy.

              By crossing the Tickfaw at Wall’s Bridge and recrossing it again at a ford some six miles downstream, Grierson’s men were able to cut diagonally across a westward bend in the river. After they made the second crossing and turned southeast, just two major obstacles stood between them and the Union lines at Baton Rouge: the rain-gorged Amite and Comite Rivers.

              The troopers reined up that evening a mile short of the Amite River bottom as two butternut-clad riders advanced toward them along the darkened road. A calm whisper identified the grime-covered scouts as Confederate couriers bearing dispatches for Port Hudson. In an instant, the pair of chagrined Rebels slipped silently and securely into Union hands.

              With a bright moon lighting the way, the Federal cavalrymen crossed the Amite River at the Williams Bridge. Grierson urged the column steadily forward while a company of the 6th filed off to disperse enemy cavalry camped nearby. An ear-shattering volley sent 75 partially clad Confederates scrambling for their lives. After collecting a handful of prisoners, the troopers raced to overtake the moving column.

              As they pushed on through the early morning darkness toward the Comite River, the jaded cavalrymen began to drift off to sleep. Men by the score, and I think by fifties, were riding sound asleep in their saddles, Captain Forbes recalled. The horses, excessively tired and hungry, would stray out of the road and thrust their noses to the earth in hopes of finding something to eat. A handful of officers and enlisted men passed up and down the flanks of the ragged column, riding herd on straying men and mounts.

              Daylight on May 2 found the Yankee raiders approaching Big Sandy Creek, seven miles east of the Comite River ford. As sleeping soldiers jerked stiffly upright in their saddles, the scouts spotted 150 tents dotting the opposite bank. A quick charge by two companies of the 6th secured the camp. Most of the men were off in Mississippi looking for Grierson’s raiders of the 40 who had remained to guard the crossing, all but one fell into Yankee hands. While the 6th stayed behind to destroy tents and equipment, Grierson pressed on with the 7th toward the Comite.

              Captured officers told Grierson of the Confederate guard at Roberts’ Ford on the Comite. Yankee scouts confirmed the presence of an encampment amidst a cluster of trees on the river’s eastern bank. The Rebels seemed oblivious to the approach of Yankee cavalry. On the morning of May 2, at about 9 a.m., I was surprised by a body of the enemy, under command of Colonel Grierson, numbering upward of 1,000 men, wrote Captain B.F. Bryan, the Confederate commander at Roberts’ Ford. They made a dash and surrounded me on all sides before I was aware that they were other than our own troops, their advanced guard being dressed in citizens’ garb.

              A dozen shots from Yankee carbines transformed the tranquil grove into a scene of chaos. In the confusion, Bryan escaped by hiding in the moss-draped branches of a nearby tree. Most of my men being on picket, and having only about 30 of them immediately in camp, he reported, there was no possible chance of my making a stand. Few of his soldiers escaped he assessed his loss at 38 men, 38 horses, 2 mules, 37 pistols, 2,000 rounds of cartridges, and our cooking utensils.

              The Yankee raiders forded the swollen Comite half a mile upstream, and Grierson ordered them into bivouac four miles outside the Union lines at Baton Rouge. Sleep came easily to the exhausted troopers, but their commander, having come this far, felt he could hardly afford to relax his vigilance. After posting a guard, the former music teacher proceeded to a nearby house, where he astonished the occupants by sitting down and playing upon a piano which I found in the parlor, Grierson recalled. In that manner, I managed to stay awake, while my soldiers were enjoying themselves by relaxation, sleep, and quiet rest. A breathless orderly interrupted his recital with news of enemy skirmishers advancing from the direction of Baton Rouge. Confident that the enemy must be part of Major General Nathaniel Banks’s Federal command in that city, Grierson rose from his piano stool and rode out to meet his visitors.

              Dismounting and pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, the mud-spattered Grierson hailed Captain J. Franklin Godfrey and two companies of the Federal 1st Louisiana Cavalry. The raiders had reached Union-controlled territory.

              At 3:00 p.m. on May 2, a cloud of dust rose over the Bayou Sara Road. Citizens and soldiers flocked to the streets of Baton Rouge, eager to catch the first view of the daring raiders. With sabers drawn, the dusty troopers of the 6th Illinois Cavalry rode four abreast through the crowd-lined avenues. Close behind, the four guns of Smith’s battery wobbled ludicrously on makeshift wheels that had been improvised to replace those broken during the expedition. A hundred or more morose prisoners trudged in the wake of the swaying artillery pieces and, behind them, 500 former slaves in every conceivable style of plantation dress and undress, each one mounted, and leading from two to three other horses, and many of them armed with shotguns and hunting rifles. Behind the contrabands (slaves who had fled from their owners to Union lines) lumbered a ragtag assortment of wheeled vehicles. Aboard were the sick and wounded, most suffering from painfully swollen legs caused by extended riding. Colonel Prince’s 7th Illinois, also in columns of fours and with drawn sabers, brought up the rear.

              With the cheers of the flag-waving crowd echoing off the cobblestones, Grierson’s motley band circled the city square and proceeded to water their horses in the Mississippi. As the sun descended, the tired, dirty cavalrymen settled into camp in a fragrant blooming magnolia grove.

              Grierson slipped off to well-earned rest. In 16 days of nearly continuous riding, he had led his men on a 600-mile path down the length of Mississippi. They had disrupted between 50 and 60 miles of vital rail and telegraph lines leading from Confederate headquarters at Jackson east to Alabama and Georgia and south to the river strongholds of Port Hudson, Grand Gulf, and Port Gibson. Grierson estimated the cost to the enemy at 100 dead or wounded, 500 prisoners captured and paroled, 1,000 horses and mules confiscated, 3,000 stand of arms, and huge quantities of army stores and other government property seized and destroyed.

              Even the Federal raiders were astonished at the relative ease with which they had passed through what was presumed to be the armed heartland of the Confederacy. In spite of the enemy’s superior numbers and intimate knowledge of roads and terrain, Grierson’s cavalry had encountered only token resistance. The entire loss sustained by the two Illinois regiments amounted to three killed, seven wounded, and five left along the route.

              All the while, Grierson’s mysterious movements had confounded Confederate commanders and diverted cavalry to the state’s interior during the Union army’s crucial movement across the Mississippi for the final assault on Vicksburg. Notified of Grierson’s success through Southern newspapers, Grant pronounced the expedition one of the most brilliant cavalry exploits of the war and predicted that it will be handed down in history as an example to be imitated.

              Equally important was the effect of Grierson’s raid on Confederate morale. The Federal invasion heightened popular distrust of military and civilian authority and threw Mississippians into a frenzy. Grierson has knocked the heart out of the State, an anonymous Unionist reported.

              To a Northern public weary of a long winter of inactivity, news of the brilliant cavalry feat came from the west like an invigorating breeze of spring air. You have only yet received the first installment of events that will electrify the world, announced the New Orleans correspondent of the New York Times. I should not be surprised if the Mississippi should prove, at last, the base of operations by which we can most instantaneously reach the innermost heart of the mighty rebellion.

              Fresh from a firsthand tour behind the Rebel lines, Grierson spoke directly to the earnest hopes of his fellow citizens when he informed a New England chaplain, The Confederacy is an empty shell. Two more years of bloody warfare lay ahead before the Union armies would finally pierce that shell, but Grierson’s remarkable raid showed the way.

              This article was written by JBruce J. Dinges and originally published in the February 1996 issue of Civil War Times Magazine. For more great articles, be sure to subscribe to Civil War Times magazine today!

              American Civil War April 1863

              April 1863 saw the start of the third year of the American Civil War. The economic plight of the South was taking a heavy toll. Coupled with this, the Army of the Potomac started to finalise plans for an attack on Richmond, the Confederacy’s capital.

              April 2 nd : Riots occurred in Richmond where people were becoming desperate at the economic plight of the Confederacy. Food in particular was in short supply. The riot was termed a “bread riot” by locals though it turned into a general looting session. It was only quelled when the rioters listened to Jefferson Davis who spoke to them in person and then threw the money in his pockets at them. It was a sufficient gesture to disperse the rioters.

              April 3 rd : Lincoln visited Hooker and pressurised him into an attack on Richmond. In response Hooker put in for 1.5 million ration packs.

              April 4 th : Hooker prepared the Army of the Potomac for an attack on Richmond. The Army’s Secret Service Department was ordered to prepare updated maps on the defences at Richmond.

              April 5 th : Several Confederate ships were detained in Liverpool docks, as it was believed that they were blockade-runners.

              April 10 th : Lincoln reviewed the Army of the Potomac at its winter quarters in Falmouth, Virginia. The troops he met expressed their full confidence in Hooker – a view not totally shared by the president. Lincoln had to dampen down Hooker’s rhetoric about capturing Richmond and remind him that defeating Lee’s Army of Virginia was far more important and that Richmond was the bait to lure Lee into battle.

              April 13 th : General Burnside issued his General Order Number 38, which threatened the death penalty for anyone found guilty of treasonable behaviour.

              April 17 th : This day saw the start of Colonel Ben Grierson’s Union legendary raid into the Confederacy. With 1700 cavalrymen, Grierson roamed 600 miles during his raid deep into the South. The raid lasted 16 days and within the Union army Grierson became a legend.

              April 20 th : Lincoln announced that West Virginia would join the Union on June 20 th 1863.

              April 21 st : Hooker finalised his plan of attack. He hoped to fool the South into thinking that Fredericksburg was his main target while moving three corps of troops against Lee’s left flank. 2000 mules were acquired by Hooker to speed up the movement of his army.

              April 24 th : The Confederate Congress passed a tax set at 8% on all agricultural produce grown in 1862 and a 10% tax on profits made from the sale of iron, clothing and cotton. There was much public hostility to these new taxes but a general acceptance that they were needed. The biggest problem facing the South’s economy was the fact that much land was used for the growing of cotton and not for food.

              April 26 th : Hooker’s offensive against Lee’s Army of Virginia and Richmond started. However, torrential rain turned many of the roads/tracks he used to mud and made movement very difficult.

              April 28 th : The rain has made movement so difficult that engineers had to lay logs on the surface of roads/tracks to allow wagons to move.

              April 29 th : Lee’s scouts informed him that it was their belief that the attack on Fredericksburg was a feint and that their observed movement of many men on Lee’s left flank was the real target of Hooker. Lee accepted the advice of his scouts and ordered Stonewall Jackson not to attack Union troops at Fredericksburg – despite Jackson’s request to do just this.

              April 30 th : Hooker ordered 10,000 cavalrymen to raid Lee’s communication bases. The raids, while impressive with regards to the number of men involved, achieved very little and if anything served to boost the confidence of Lee’s Army of Virginia.

              UNION ADVANCES

              The war in the west continued in favor of the North in 1863. At the start of the year, Union forces controlled much of the Mississippi River. In the spring and summer of 1862, they had captured New Orleans—the most important port in the Confederacy, through which cotton harvested from all the Southern states was exported—and Memphis. Grant had then attempted to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, a commercial center on the bluffs above the Mississippi River. Once Vicksburg fell, the Union would have won complete control over the river. A military bombardment that summer failed to force a Confederate surrender. An assault by land forces also failed in December 1862.

              In April 1863, the Union began a final attempt to capture Vicksburg. On July 3, after more than a month of a Union siege, during which Vicksburg’s residents hid in caves to protect themselves from the bombardment and ate their pets to stay alive, Grant finally achieved his objective. The trapped Confederate forces surrendered. The Union had succeeded in capturing Vicksburg and splitting the Confederacy ([link]). This victory inflicted a serious blow to the Southern war effort.

              As Grant and his forces pounded Vicksburg, Confederate strategists, at the urging of General Lee, who had defeated a larger Union army at Chancellorsville, Virginia, in May 1863, decided on a bold plan to invade the North. Leaders hoped this invasion would force the Union to send troops engaged in the Vicksburg campaign east, thus weakening their power over the Mississippi. Further, they hoped the aggressive action of pushing north would weaken the Union’s resolve to fight. Lee also hoped that a significant Confederate victory in the North would convince Great Britain and France to extend support to Jefferson Davis’s government and encourage the North to negotiate peace.

              Beginning in June 1863, General Lee began to move the Army of Northern Virginia north through Maryland. The Union army—the Army of the Potomac—traveled east to end up alongside the Confederate forces. The two armies met at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where Confederate forces had gone to secure supplies. The resulting battle lasted three days, July 1–3 ([link]) and remains the biggest and costliest battle ever fought in North America. The climax of the Battle of Gettysburg occurred on the third day. In the morning, after a fight lasting several hours, Union forces fought back a Confederate attack on Culp’s Hill, one of the Union’s defensive positions. To regain a perceived advantage and secure victory, Lee ordered a frontal assault, known as Pickett’s Charge (for Confederate general George Pickett), against the center of the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge. Approximately fifteen thousand Confederate soldiers took part, and more than half lost their lives, as they advanced nearly a mile across an open field to attack the entrenched Union forces. In all, more than a third of the Army of Northern Virginia had been lost, and on the evening of July 4, Lee and his men slipped away in the rain. General George Meade did not pursue them. Both sides suffered staggering losses. Total casualties numbered around twenty-three thousand for the Union and some twenty-eight thousand among the Confederates. With its defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, both on the same day, the Confederacy lost its momentum. The tide had turned in favor of the Union in both the east and the west.

              Following the Battle of Gettysburg, the bodies of those who had fallen were hastily buried. Attorney David Wills, a resident of Gettysburg, campaigned for the creation of a national cemetery on the site of the battlefield, and the governor of Pennsylvania tasked him with creating it. President Lincoln was invited to attend the cemetery’s dedication. After the featured orator had delivered a two-hour speech, Lincoln addressed the crowd for several minutes. In his speech, known as the Gettysburg Address , which he had finished writing while a guest in David Wills’ home the day before the dedication, Lincoln invoked the Founding Fathers and the spirit of the American Revolution. The Union soldiers who had died at Gettysburg, he proclaimed, had died not only to preserve the Union, but also to guarantee freedom and equality for all.

              Several months after the battle at Gettysburg, Lincoln traveled to Pennsylvania and, speaking to an audience at the dedication of the new Soldiers’ National Ceremony near the site of the battle, he delivered his now-famous Gettysburg Address to commemorate the turning point of the war and the soldiers whose sacrifices had made it possible. The two-minute speech was politely received at the time, although press reactions split along party lines. Upon receiving a letter of congratulations from Massachusetts politician and orator William Everett, whose speech at the ceremony had lasted for two hours, Lincoln said he was glad to know that his brief address, now virtually immortal, was not “a total failure.”

              Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

              Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

              It is for us the living . . . to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

              —Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

              What did Lincoln mean by “a new birth of freedom”? What did he mean when he said “a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”?

              Acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns has created a documentary about a small boys’ school in Vermont where students memorize the Gettysburg Address. It explores the value the address has in these boys’ lives, and why the words still matter.

              Battle of Mobile Bay

              As Sherman was closing in on Atlanta, the US Navy was conducting operations against Mobile, AL. Led by Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, fourteen wooden warships and four monitors ran past Forts Morgan and Gaines at the mouth of Mobile Bay and attacked the ironclad CSS Tennessee and three gunboats. In doing so, they passed near a torpedo (mine) field, which claimed the monitor USS Tecumseh. Seeing the monitor sink, the ships in front of Farragut's flagship paused, causing him to famously exclaim "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" Pressing on into the bay, his fleet captured CSS Tennessee and closed the port to Confederate shipping. The victory, coupled with the fall of Atlanta, greatly aided Lincoln in his reelection campaign that November.

              American Civil War February 1863

              The economic blockade of the South during the American Civil War started to really hit home by February 1863 with the South’s currency worth just 20% of its pre-war value. The weather meant that important military issues were kept to a minimum though the intelligence network of the Army of the Potomac was completely revamped.

              February 1 st : The dollar used in the Confederacy was worth just 20% of what it did when the war broke out. Such was the success of the Federal Navy in the rivers of the South that a decision was taken to remove any stores of cotton away from rivers. Any cotton that could not be moved was burned to save it falling into the hands of the Union.

              February 2 nd : Grant started his attempt to build a canal around to the rear of Vicksburg using the Yazoo River as his source of water. By doing this, Grant’s men would avoid the Confederate artillery stationed in Vicksburg.

              February 3 rd : The French continued to offer attempts at mediation. Secretary of State Seward met the French ambassador in Washington DC to discuss such a move.

              February 5 th : The British government announced that any attempts at mediation would result in failure. Their lack of action was in stark contrast to the pro-active stance of the French government.

              February 6 th : The Federal government officially announced that it had rejected French offers of mediation.

              February 9 th : General Hooker started his reorganisation of the Army of the Potomac. He decided that his first task was to improve its intelligence gathering. On his arrival at his headquarters he found no document that could inform him about the strength of the Army of Virginia. General Butterfield wrote: “There was no means, no organisation, and no apparent effort to obtain such information. We were almost as ignorant of the enemy in our immediate front as if they had been in China. An efficient organisation for that purpose was instituted, by which we were so enabled to get correct and proper information of the enemy, their strengths and movements.”

              February 11 th : Hooker then turned his attention to the conditions his men lived under, which he linked to the high levels of desertion. New huts were built that could cope with the winter weather and fresh fruit and vegetables were provided. Medical facilities were also improved. The impact on desertions was dramatic and even men who had deserted returned to their regiments.

              February 12 th : The Union’s naval blockade had a disastrous impact on the South’s economy and the river patrols of its flat-bottomed boats were equally as successful. However, the sheer size of the fleet operating meant that the Federal government faced a supply problem no one had encountered before. It was estimated that the North had to supply 70,000 bushels of coal each month to keep the fleet on the move. Food and water could be obtained locally but there was little chance of getting hold of large quantities of coal.

              February 13 th : General Hooker made what was to prove to be one of the most important changes to the Army of the Potomac during the war. Scattered cavalry units were amalgamated into one corps. No one was immediately appointed to command it as no army commander had ever had access to one concentrated cavalry unit. Hooker was willing to wait to appoint the most suitable candidate – he later selected General Stoneman to command it.

              February 16 th : The Senate passed the Conscription Act, which was passed, as volunteers for the Union army were not forthcoming.

              February 22 nd : Hooker believed that his changes were starting to have an impact as the levels of scurvy and intestinal diseases dropped quite markedly.

              Watch the video: Civil War 1863 - Gettysburg Picketts Charge (June 2022).


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