The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – January 7-13, 1863

Here is a look at events in the Civil War this week in January 1863. But first . . .

Presidents and Generals

Thanks to McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom (source 3, below; pages 613-615 of the Google book) and Curt Anders’ Henry Halleck’s War (source 7, below; Chapter 11), it’s possible to give a brief summary of some interesting things that were happening at the top of the chain of command, both North and South, in early January.


Circa 1862: Right to left, I believe, are Generals Burnside (foreground, gray horse), Hooker (back row), Sheridan (famous black horse), McClellan (center back row), Sigel (back row), Meade (back row), and Halleck (white horse). Library of Congress

In Washington, very early on the first morning of the New Year, perhaps even before he worked on the Emancipation Proclamation, the President met with his General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, General Burnside and Secretary of War Stanton.

Lincoln had been told by some of Burnside’s officers that there was little confidence in Burnside and the army wasn’t in shape to undergo the new campaign Burnside is planning.

Other DC insiders are also promoting McClellan (“we must have McClellan back with unlimited and unfettered powers”) after the Fredericksburg disaster, while General Joe Hooker is intriguing for himself and telling reporters that what the country needs is a dictator.

US Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton during the war.  (Library of Congress)

US Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton during the war. (Library of Congress)

Burnside told the president at the New Year’s Day meeting and later in writing that he would gladly resign and also that “[t]he Secretary of War has not the confidence of the officers and soldiers, and I feel sure that he has not the confidence of the country. In regard to the latter statement, you are probably better informed than I am. The same opinion applies with equal force in regard to General Halleck. It seems to be the universal opinion that the movements of the army have not been planned with a view to co-operation and mutual assistance.”

Lincoln did convince Burnside on January 1st to stay and head back to work, but the president and General Halleck have since then had what sounds like a spat/constitutional mini-crisis (see Anders, pages 363-366) that guarantees Burnside will be neither replaced nor closely supervised, unfortunately for the men of the Army of the Potomac (who are already deserting at the rate of about a hundred a day) later in the month.

We will also hear this of US generals Grant and McClernand in relation to command issues.

View from Britain:  Cartoon showing Lord Punch saying, "That was Jeff Davis, Pam! Don't you recognise him?" and Lord Pam replying "Hm! Well, not exactly--may have to do so some of these days." Sign reads "America, another federal defeat".  (Library of Congress)

View from Britain: Cartoon showing Lord Punch saying, “That was Jeff Davis, Pam! Don’t you recognise him?” and Lord Pam replying “Hm! Well, not exactly–may have to do so some of these days.” Sign reads “America, another federal defeat”. (Library of Congress)

In the Confederacy in early January, meanwhile, all of the corps and division commanders in the Army of Tennessee are expressing lack of confidence in General Bragg, who is retaliating with courts martial for some of his subordinates and offering his resignation to his boss, President Davis.

Jefferson Davis tells his recently appointed commander of the Western theater, General Joseph Johnston, to look into it, apparently in hopes that Johnston will fire Bragg and take over himself.

However, Johnston, who wants to get back his command of the Army of Northern Virginia, passes the buck, saying that while subordinate officers are unhappy with Bragg, troop morale overall is high. He suggests that Longstreet replace Bragg and if they want, Lee can take over as Western commander as Johnston returns to command in Virginia.

None of this is acted on, of course, but neither does Davis order Johnston right away to replace Bragg.

January 7

Emancipation: Samuel Medary, editor of The Crisis in Ohio (he has a whole chapter in

Pages: 1 2

Categories: American Civil War

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