150 Years Ago, January 1863

by James Durney on January 1, 2013 · 0 comments

150 Years Ago

January 1863

The Emancipation Proclamation is now law.  All slaves in the Confederate States of America are free.  Slaves in CSA areas occupied by Federal forces are free too.  However, slaves in Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri are still slaves.  Slavery is still legal in the United States and will remain legal until the XIII amendment.  The large anti-slavery groups in Great Britain and France applaud Lincoln’s action.  The government of both nations becomes more reluctant to recognize the South and slavery.

Burnside tenders his resignation and Lincoln refuses to accept it.  Burnside expresses concern that the AoP’s senior officers lack faith in his abilities as the army’s commander.  Washington refuses to allow Burnside to resign or rid the army of the officers plotting against him.
Murfreesboro continues.  Rosecrans refuses to accept defeat on December 31.  During the night of New Year’s Eve, he withdrew from the Round Forrest anchoring a new line along Stones River.  The armies spend most of the First tending the wounded and burying the dead.  Late in the day, Rosecrans occupies high ground opposite Bragg’s right.

“Prince John” Magruder captures Galveston Texas in a hard fought surprise attack.  The key to victory is a naval battle where two CSS cottonclads battle six USS ships.  The Confederates lose one ship while sinking one Federal ship and running another aground.  When the Federal ships withdrew, the garrison surrenders.  Galveston remains in Confederate hands for the balance of the war as a major destination for blockade-runners.

On the Second, the Battle of Murfreesboro concludes with Breckenridge’s attack on Rosecrans right.  The day starts badly for the Federals when Joe Wheeler rides around the Army of the Cumberland destroying 1,000 wagons and capturing hundreds of soldiers.  Bragg orders Breckenridge to retake the high-ground Rosecrans occupied on the First.  Despite protests, Bragg refuses to reconsider his order.  General Roger W. Hanson vows to kill Bragg and is physically restrained until just before the attack.  His death, along with 1,800 other casualties, keeps him from carrying out his vow.   Initially, the attack drives the Federals back to the West bank of the river.  A massive battery of 57 cannon, posted on the higher East bank, simply blows Breckenridge’s division away.  A Federal counter-attack drives the Confederates back to their starting lines.  That night, Bragg withdraws to Shelbyville and Tullahoma.  Murfreesboro is one of the bloodiest battles of the war in terms of numbers involved with about 29% becoming causalities.

On the fourth, Halleck orders Grant to rescind General Order No. 11 expelling Jews from his Department.

On the Fifth, Lincoln refuses to accept Burnsides’ resignation again.

Halleck approves Burnsides’ plan for an attack across the Rappahannock on the seventh.  While the State of Illinois condemns Lincoln for turning the war’s objective from preserving the union to freeing the slaves.

Starting on the tenth, a Federal mixed army/navy force under John A. McClernand and David D. Porter conduct operations on the Arkansas River.  Their objective is Arkansas Post that surrenders on the eleventh.  Operation continues capturing smaller forts on the river until the seventeenth when Grant orders McClernand to rejoin the main command.

A court Martial finds General Fitz John Porter guilty of disobeying orders at Second Manassas.  They cashier and drop Porter from the Army rolls.  16 years later Porter is reinstated and the verdict overturned.

President Davis addresses the Third session of the First Confederate Congress in Richmond on the twelfth.  Davis attacks the Emancipation Proclamation while expressing hope of European intervention.  The same day, Joseph Wheeler overruns the Federal supply depot at Ashland, stalling the Army of the Cumberland for months.

On the thirteenth, Colonel Thomas W. Higginson starts recruiting former slaves to form the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry.

On the eighteenth, the 64th North Carolina sweeps Shelton Laurel in western part of the state looking for Federal supporters.  Colonel James A. Keith captures 15 men not all of whom are guilty.  Under his orders, the men are shot and their bodies hastily buried.  Many officials demand an investigation of the massacre.  Army officials refuse to cooperate slowing the investigation.  After several months, the investigation dies with none of the killers punished.

On the nineteenth, Burnside orders Hooker and Franklin to cross the Rappahannock River at Bank’s Ford placing them behind Lee’s army.

Starting on the twentieth, torrential rain stalls Burnside’s advance.  The Army of the Potomac is mired in axle deep mud for the next four days.  This is the infamous “Mud March”.  Burnside issues liquor attempting to improve the men’s moral, instead soldier start fighting each other.  On the twenty-second, with his army losing the war with mud and rain after a heated meeting with senior officers Burnside calls off the operation.

On the twenty-third, the AoP is back in Falmouth.  In less than two months, Fredericksburg and the “Mud March” destroy the army’s moral.  Many men are sullen, desertions are up, many are sick and enlistments are down.  Army food is not meeting the nutritional needs of the men and pay is moths late.  General Order No. 8 removes Hooker, Franklin and Sumner from command of the Grand Divisions.  Burnside heads for Washington to confer with the War Department.

On the twenty-fifth, “Fighting Joe” Hooker replaces Ambrose E. Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac.  Hooker is one of Burnside’s harshest critics.   Franklin and Sumner remain relived pending a court of inquiry.

While Washington is playing musical generals, Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrews authorizes recruitment of Negros for the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

On the twenty-sixth, Lincoln tells Hooker, “I think that during Gen. Burnside’s command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer”.

In Idaho Territory, the 1st California Cavalry defeats Chief Bear Hunter and 300 warriors on the 27th.  This victory forces the Shoshone to cede the Great Basin to the USA.  Colonel Patrick E. Connor is promotion to brigadier general for the campaign.

Jefferson Davis writes Generals Theophilus Holmes and John Pemberton about Federal activities on the Mississippi River.  Davis stresses the importance of Vicksburg, Port Hudson and the need to obstruct navigation south of Yazoo Pass.

The Confederate Congress authorizes their French agents to acquire $15 million in loans.

On the 30th, U.S. Grant is appointed commandeer of western operations against Vicksburg.

A heavy skirmish at Dover TN, results in the capture of 300 of Bragg’s soldiers.

Two Confederate ships attack the Charleston blockade fleet, doing damage but not hindering the blockade.

A number of well-known officers receive major commands during the month.
John E. Reynolds returns as I Corps commander, Army of the Potomac.
William T. Sherman accepts command of the II Corps, Army of the Mississippi.
Franz Sigel commands the Right Grand Division, Army of the Potomac.
Edmund Kirby-Smith commands the Confederate Army of the Southwest.
John Sedgwick assumes command of the IX Corps, Army of the Potomac.
Karl Schurz commands the XI Corps, Army of the Potomac.
Joseph Wheeler becomes a Major-General CSA.

Winter weather impedes land operations forcing most armies into winter quarters.

Long winter nights, storms and overcast skies create advantages for blockade-runners and raiders.  January sees an increase in captures or sinkings by the blockade squadron’s ships.  Florida is a very active area during this month.  Additionally, the CSS Alabama under Raphael Semmes and the CSS Florida under John N. Maffitt are active in the Caribbean.

1862 ended with a battle and 1863 starts with a battle.  In April, the war will be two-years old.  No one is sure of victory.  The North looks at Virginia where things are going badly, ignoring the western theaters where things are going well.  The South ignores the danger Grant and Rosecrans poise concentrating on Lee’s victories.  However, Victory in Virginia cannot fix defeats in the west.  Lincoln is willing to replace generals as necessary.  Davis ignores real problems working on personal feelings.  The South is not developing a Grant, Sherman, Meade or Sheridan.  They will stick with Lee, Bragg, Johnston, Polk, Hardee and Pemberton.  Lincoln would replace Bragg with little doubt.  Hardee and Polk might soon find themselves on the shelf. Patrick Cleburne would be moving up the command ladder Irish Catholic or not.  In 1863, both sides will see the results of their attitudes toward commanders.

Reading the War

Murfreesboro or Stones River is the only battle with dedicated books.

Peter Cozzens’ No Better Place to Die, written over 20 years ago, is still an excellent book.

Blue & Gray XXVIII #6 is a complete account of the battle.  Jim Lewis wrote the text and Dave Roth did the maps.  This is my choice for its’ combination of text, maps and battlefield tour.

Winter Lightning: A Guide to the Battle of Stones River is the War College guide.

For Galveston, James M. Schmidt’s Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom.  Has an excellent account of the January battle that retook the city.


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