TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog

150 Years Ago, April 1863

150 Years Ago

April 1863

The Naval Blockade, inflation and disruption of the transportation system are taking a toll on the Confederacy.  The combination of high prices and shortages cause the “Bread Riot”.  On the Second, in Richmond, a small group of women and children march for “bread”.  The group grows, turns into a mob sacking several businesses in the capitol.  Jefferson Davis walks into the mist of the mob.  He stops the looting and disperses the rioters with a combination of good sense and threats.

While Davis is restoring order in the capitol, Grant and Porter agree on the final plan to take Vicksburg.  Sherman will fix Pemberton’s attention by conducting a series of large demonstrations against Hayne’s Bluff.  Grant will take the balance of the army on a march South down the West bank of the Mississippi.  Porter will run his ships past the city uniting with Grant at Hard Times.  Grant will cross the river on Porter’s ships.  This puts Grant and Vicksburg on the same side of the river with realistic approaches to Vicksburg.

Charles F. Adams lodges a strong protest with Her Majesty’s Government over a bark-rigged screw steamer, built at Liverpool, christened The Alexander.  The ship is in the “fitting out” phase The CSS Alabama is still active and Adams is trying to keep another British built ship from joining the Confederate Navy.  Two days later, the British Government seizes the ship.  Legal proceedings result in a victory for the Confederacy, releasing the ship to them.  The war ends before the Alexander can join the fighting.

On the Fifth, Admiral Samuel Du Pont leaves port to attack Charleston.  On the Seventh, the cities’ batteries inflict a crushing defeat on his fleet.  The USS Keokuk sinks from battle damage on the Eight.  The South is able to recover her signal books enabling the South to read the North’s naval signals.

While the British seized the Alexander, the Japan is commissioned as the CSS Georgia off the French coast on the ninth.  While taking nine ships on the maiden voyage, poor sailing abilities cause her to be decommissioned.

Jefferson Davis urges the planting of “food for man and beasts” in preference to cotton and tobacco.

On the Eleventh, Longstreet’s 20,000 veterans lay “siege” to Suffolk Virginia.  The 25,000 men of the IX Corps behind a well constructed series of fortifications and not unduly frighten.

The same day, Colonel Abel D. Streight with 1,700 men leaves Nashville to raid Northern Alabama and Georgia.  The “cavalry” raid is infantry mounted on mules.  This is the first of two raids designed to distract attention from Grant.  Benjamin H. Grierson’s raiders depart on the Seventeenth from LaGrange.

Hooker and Lincoln had agreed that Lee’s army not Richmond is the primary target on the Fifth.  Lincoln reminds Hooker of this after receiving plans to swing past Lee’s Left Flank and threaten Richmond.  The planning of the Chancellorsville Campaign is under way.

During the month, N. P. Banks and Richard Taylor maneuver and fight along Bayou Teche, Louisiana.  The Battle of Irish Bend fought on the Thirteenth is a nasty little affair typical of service in the area.

Ambrose E. Burnside, Department of the Ohio, moves to suppress the Copperheads.   Any displays of wanton Southern sympathy will result in deportation to Confederate lines.

Grant is assembling 45,000 troops at Milliken’s Bend, while Sherman demonstrates before Chickasaw Bluffs.

D.H. Hill gives up the siege of New Bren when reinforcements sail past his shore batteries.

On the sixteenth, The Confederate States of America allow men under the age of 18 to hold military commissions.  That night, Admiral David D. Porter interrupts a gala ball when his fleet sails past Vicksburg.  One transport sinks and the Forrest Queen is disabled in a two and half hour action but Grant has gunboats to protect a crossing of the Mississippi.

Grierson leaves La Grange for a 16-day raid thru Mississippi to Baton Rouge.  A confused Pemberton looks at this raid while losing track of Grant’s army.  This could be the most successful cavalry raid of the war.

On the nineteenth, Lincoln, Halleck and Stanton “visit” Aquia Creek and discuss military matters.

One day later, the new state of West Virginia enters the Union.

During the night of the twenty-first, six army transports run past the batteries at Vicksburg.  One is lost and three others heavily damage.  Grant has the ships to carry his army across the river.

The next day, President Davis suggests to General Pemberton that he use fire rafts to disrupt the Union ships south of the city.

On the twenty-fourth, Grant starts preparing to ferry his army from Hard Time Plantation, Louisiana to Bruinsville, Mississippi.  Grierson captures Newton Station only 100 miles east of Vicksburg.

A 10 percent tax is levied on all foodstuff harvested in the South.  This is over and above any requisitions by the government.

On the twenty-fifth, Cherokees under CSA Colonel Stand Watie fight at Webber’s Falls, Indian Territory.  The same day, Apaches attack near Fort Bowie, Arizona Territory.   It is easy to forget that life went on in the West or that the Cherokee Nation was as divided as the United States.

On the twenty-seventh, the Army of the Potomac, 134,000 strong, stars what will become the Chancellorsville Campaign.  General John Sedgwick with 40,000 men remains at Fredericksburg.  Hooker with everyone else marches west.  He plans to cross the Rappahannock River, march through the Wilderness and cut Lee off from Richmond.  The next day, Hooker orders the army to march on Chancellorsville his plan is going well.

That day in Vicksburg General John Pemberton learns a large Union fleet is sailing toward Grand Gulf.  Two brigades march south to reinforce General John S. Brown.

On the twenty-ninth, Stoneman’s cavalry cross the Rappahannock on Hooker’s great raid.  William W. Averell is to destroy the Orange & Alexander Railroad near Gordonsville.  John Buford is to destroy the Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad.  Hooker strips the army of cavalry to man this raid.  He will operate “blind” during the advance.  Cutting the railroads will force Lee to abandon the Rappahannock line.

April thirtieth finds the Army of the Potomac, the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Tennessee on the move.  Only the Army of Mississippi is busy watching Sherman at Chickasaw Bluffs and Grierson raiding south of Vicksburg.

Grant crosses the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg, pushes inland to confront General Brown at Port Gibson.  His army is on the Vicksburg side of the river with room to maneuver.

Hooker is over the Rappahannock behind Lee with a large cavalry raid in progress.

Lee while caught off guard reacts quickly.  Early and 10,000 men will remain at Fredericksburg to occupy Sedgwick.  The balance of the army marches toward Chancellorsville and battle.

David D. Porter supported Grant’s crossing of the Mississippi River by conducting several blocking and bombardment campaigns.  His work is exceptional and vital to the campaign.

The CSS Florida and Alabama are actively raiding American shipping.


Reading the War

The best book I have seen on Chancellorsville is Steven W. Sears Chancellorsville.

The current issue of Blue & Gray covers Chancellorsville with their normal excellent job.

Due in May is CHANCELLORSVILLE’S FORGOTTEN FRONT: The Battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church, May 3, 1863.

Vicksburg has almost as many books as Gettysburg.

Vicksburg Is the Key: The Struggle for the Mississippi River by William L. Shea and Terrence J. Winschel both are excellent historians and writers.

The Campaign for Vicksburg: I Vicksburg Is the Key, II Grant Strikes a Fatal Blow, III Unvexed to the Sea (3 volume set) by Edwin C. Bearss, my set is signed.

The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign, December 1862-July 1863 by Shelby Foote many say Foote is not a historian but he is a great storyteller.

While many consider Groom’s histories to be less than valid, I enjoy reading his work since Better Times Than These.  Vicksburg, 1863 is his entry into this market.

Two books are holdovers, as many things do not divide into nice monthly units.

Eric Wittenberg wrote an excellent history of this time in The Union Cavalry Comes of Age: Hartwood Church to Brandy Station, 1863.

Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln’s Opponents in the North by Jennifer L. Weber is a very readable look at this movement.


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