The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – January 21-27, 1863

Here is a look at events in the Civil War this week.

There were very few happy people anywhere in the north. Also, weather definitely took sides. (Here is a closer look at the weather of 1863 in Virginia.)

In the south, the defenders of Fredericksburg had a laugh, and young John Mosby found his calling.

Anti-Lincoln political cartoon published in Boston.  Text is transcribed here. (Library of Congress)

Anti-Lincoln political cartoon published in Boston. You can read text here. (Library of Congress)

January 21

Emancipation: A group of Northern conservatives propose “sloughing off the secession sympathizers from the Dem[ocratic] party, of the ultras from the Rep[ublican], and [forming] a new organization for 1864” headed by Secretary of State Seward. While Seward is not content with the Proclamation, he refuses to lead a breakaway faction against Lincoln.

Meanwhile, in Illinois, a friend of President Lincoln notes in his diary that someone locally “thinks the radical and extreme policy of the administration has made the restoration of the Union impossible in any other way than by the North Western States [Ohio, Indiana and Illinois] forming an alliance with the States of the lower Mississippi. If this were done, he thinks Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey &c. would soon join, and ultimately the remaining states, and that thus we might become again one people.” (10)

Military events: Vicksburg operations: General Halleck authorizes General Grant to command troops in Arkansas who can support the Mississippi River campaign. (8)

He adds, “It may be proper to give you some explanation of the revocation of your order expelling all Jews from your department. The President has no objection to your expelling traitors and Jew peddlers, which, I suppose was the object of your order; but, as it in terms proscribed an entire religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks, the President deemed it necessary to revoke it.” (1) (Halleck’s ability to respect the religious class while summoning up a negative stereotype for its individuals and businessmen reminds me of something Martin Luther King, Jr., said in another context: “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”)

Virginia operations/the Mud March: From the Army of the Potomac: “. . . [A]t daylight, everything was a sea of mud. . . . The mud was hub deep and wagons and artillery were stuck fast all around us. The guns had 12 horses to each but they could not get them along. In fact, the whole army that day was in a state of heaving, as it were, or to be more explicit, it reminded me of workmen lifting a heavy stone – for instance a “Now then, all together, heave!” and the army would advance a step. By the aid of well developed muscles and prodigious blasphemy three miles of Old Virginia’s soil was covered that day. . . . We bivouaced [sic] again in the woods and passed another night in marking time while it still poured and deluged beyond description. It was a kind of Noah’s storm.” (17) (Note: I checked – it wasn’t one of the recognized tropical systems of 1863.)

The Army of the Potomac on January 21, 1863.  A. R. Waud (Library of Congress)

The Army of the Potomac on January 21, 1863. A. R. Waud (Library of Congress)

January 22

Virginia operations/the Mud March: From the Army of the Potomac: “We remained in bivouac, couldn’t move, everything and every body stuck fast. The head of our army had reached the Rappahannock but were mired along its banks. The rebs, at Ellis Ford, where we were to cross, had a large board erected with ‘Burnside stuck in the mud’ in large letters written on it. On another they had ‘Yanks, if you can’t place your Pontoons over yourself we will send you a detail.’ They were seen busily plowing the ground over which we would have to pass had we forced the Rappahannock.” (17) McPherson also notes there was a sign that read “This way to Richmond.” (3)

January 23

Virginia operations/the Mud March: From the Army of the Potomac: “The whole army was ordered back and the campaign abandoned. The elements this time, and not the rebs, defeated the Army of the Potomac. It was soon learned that to order and to perform were two very different things. Although ordered back, the army couldn’t go; it was stuck fast in the mud, and as our line of march was stretched out at least 12 miles, something would have to be done before the pontoon and artillery trains could be moved. Thereupon the whole army was set to building corduroy roads and before night completed from the front back to old camp a substantial log road over which the trains passed that night.” (17)

Some of Col. Mosby's men, posing on the courthouse steps in Warrenton, Virginia, in the 1920s.  (Library of Congress)

Some of Col. Mosby’s men, posing on the courthouse steps in Warrenton, Virginia, in the 1920s. (Library of Congress)

January 24

Military events: Virginia operations: In northern Virginia, CS General JEB Stuart is pleased with Colonel John Mosby’s raid and gives him a unit of 15 men. This day, Mosby and the new 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry, also known as Mosby’s Rangers, cross the Rappahannock and begin operating. His goals are to “threaten and harass the enemy on the border and in this way compel him to withdraw troops from his front to guard the line of the Potomac and Washington. This would greatly diminish his offensive power.” (11)

Source 18 gives different dates for this, saying “Mosby and the fifteen men rode into Fauquier County to begin work. Just north of Warrenton, Mosby told his men to scatter and find shelter in the homes of the people of Fauquier and Loudoun Counties and to meet him on January 26, 1863 at Mount Zion Baptist Church just east of Aldie. This would be the pattern of his operation. His rangers would scatter until the appointed day, time and place that they were told to assemble for a raid. Known as Mosby’s Rangers, they would wreak havoc on the Federal forces in the northern Virginia area.” In any event, the Rangers were successful and many young Southern men joined them over the course of the war.

Mississippi operations: US Rear Admiral Porter interdicts 11 Confederate steamers loaded with supplies and headed to Vicksburg. Nonetheless, he tells the US Secretary of the Navy, “I am guarding the Yazoo River. The front…is heavily fortified. Unless we can get troops in the rear of the city I see no chance of taking it…though we cut off all their supplies.” (16)

The Mower.  D. C. Fabronius, ca. 1863.  (Library of Congress)

The Mower. D. C. Fabronius, ca. 1863. (Library of Congress)

January 25

Emancipation: Some Boston abolitionists, accompanied by Massachusetts Senator Wilson, meet with President Lincoln to complain that the Emancipation Proclamation has failed to accomplish its purpose. (5) Lincoln’s response, they will later say, is to concede that it has accomplished little and that “he had not expected much from it at first and consequently had not been disappointed. He had hoped, and still hoped, that something would come from it after a while.” (10)

At some point today, a naval lieutenant in Washington writes to his girl, “Mr. Lincoln looks completely worn out – almost haggard, and seems very much depressed.” (10)

Military events: Mississippi operations: US forces withdraw from Corinth to protect shipping on the Mississippi River. (6)

Virginia operations: From the Army of the Potomac: “Well here we are back again at our old camp after the most wretchedly conducted campaign recorded in history. My mind is so shocked, my military pride so humbled . . . I voice the feeling of the whole army when I say, as I have before done, that Burnside is an utter failure. The men ridicule and laugh at and have no respect, at all, for him.” (17)

General Burnside is in Washington and tells President Lincoln that either Hooker and some of the other generals must go or he will. Lincoln tells him goodbye (probably to Burnside’s relief). replaces him with General Joseph Hooker to command the Army of the Potomac, and transfers a few of the subordinates to distant posts. (3, 6)

January 26

Emancipation: Lincoln writes a thank-you note to a music teacher in Muscatine, Iowa, who wrote “The President’s Emancipation March” and sent it to the White House. (5)

Military events: Tennessee operations: CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest is summoned to General Bragg’s headquarters in Shelbyville, where he learns that part of his brigade has been sent out to retake Fort Donelson, under General Wheeler. Forrest is to join the expedition and take command. (4)

General Hooker, probably in 1862.  Matthew Brady (Library of Congress)

General Hooker, probably in 1862. Matthew Brady (Library of Congress)

In Washington, the president tells General Hooker in writing that “I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. . . . I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. . . . ” (5) Anders (7) points out that in doing this the president has “gratuitously relieved his general-in-chief of the Union armies of concern for the largest, nearest, and most troubled army of them all.”

Virginia operations: At night, Col. Mosby and his men surprise and capture 11 men and horses at Chantilly Church. (19)

JOhn Mosby and some of his men in 1911.  (Wikipedia)

John Mosby and some of his men in 1911. (Wikipedia)

January 27

Battles: Naval assault on Fort McAllister in Georgia. (6)

Military events: Virginia Operations: When 200 Union cavalry ride into Middleburg, looking for the Chantilly Church raiders, Mosby and his men fall on the rear of the column, killing one soldier and capturing three more before disappearing into the night. (19)

Other: Albert Boileau, proprietor of the Philadelphia Evening Journal, is arrested, by order of the War Department, for articles of a “dangerous character tending to the support and encouragement of rebellion against the Government of the United States.” (PDF) (16)

Sgt. William J. Jackson,  USA, sketched near Fredericksburg on January 27, 1863.  Edwin Forbes.  (Library of Congress)

Sgt. William J. Jackson, USA, sketched near Fredericksburg on January 27, 1863. Edwin Forbes. (Library of Congress)


(1)  The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

(2)  Morgan’s Raiders and The L&N Railroad in the Civil War, by Dan Lee (2011).

(3)  Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (2003 – see side bar for link).

(4) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor (1868).

(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.

(6) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(7) Henry Halleck’s War: A Fresh Look at Lincoln’s Controversial General-In-Chief, by Curt Anders (1999).

(8) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(9)”The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” (Vol. II), Jefferson Davis.

(10) The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: The Story of America’s Most Reviled President, Larry Tagg.

(11)  The Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby.

(12)  Conquest of the Lower Mississippi.

(13) The Strategy of Robert E. Lee, by J. J. Bowen (1914).

(14) Major General John Alexander McClernand: Politician in Uniform, Richard L. Kiper.

(15) The Civil War and the Press, Sachsman et al.

(16) Civil War Interactive.

(17) Inside the Army of the Potomac, the Civil War Experience of Captain Francis Adams Donaldson, edited by J. Gregory Acken (1998).

(18) Mosby Heritage Area Association: Chronology of Mosby’s Life.

(19) Those Damn Horse Soldiers, by George Walsh (2006).

(20) Civil War Virtual Museum.

Categories: American Civil War

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