The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – February 18-24, 1863

Here is a look at some of what was happening in the Civil War 150 years ago.

Blacksmith HQ, Army of the Potomac, in February 1863, by A. R. Waud (Library of Congress)

Blacksmith HQ, Army of the Potomac, in February 1863, by A. R. Waud (Library of Congress)

Most armies now were in winter quarters, but General Grant was still trying to get his army into position to attack Vicksburg (and complaining to General Halleck because his men had not been paid in many, many months).

The CSS Alabama was raiding on the Atlantic and Confederate cavalrymen were on the move in Tennessee this week. The loss of yet another ship on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg forced US Admiral Porter to come up with an ingenious plan.

February 18

Military events: Tennessee operations: CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his cavalry brigade reach their base at Columbia and spend several days resting. During this period, CS General Earl Van Dorn arrives from Mississippi, accompanied by three cavalry brigades (4500 men), and some reorganization takes place.(4) Forrest requests, in vain, permission to raid Nashville. Meanwhile, 300 US soldiers leave Franklin on a scouting party but are driven back by CS Colonel Thomas G. Woodward. (23)

Other:The Kentucky States Rights Party convenes in Frankfort to nominate candidates for state office, but Federal troops break it up, a move that is upheld by the Union commander in central Kentucky. (6)

February 20

Military events: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: After bringing fuel to Federal boats below Vicksburg and helping to block the mouth of the Red River, the US Indianola heads back upriver, towing coal barges again in case Admiral Porter decides to run another ship past Vicksburg. (24)

February 21

Battles: The CSS Alabama captures and burns the USS Golden Eagle in mid-Atlantic. The bark Olive Jane is also destroyed. (25)

February 23

Military events: Tennessee operations: With their men rested and reinforced, Generals Forrest and Van Dorn move out some time between the 23rd and the 25th, crossing the Duck River, setting up pickets and outposts within site of federally occupied Franklin and Triune, and establishing a new headquarters in Spring Hill. This is all per Jordan and Pryor (source #4, below), who also note, “A series of sharp, spirited, outpost skirmishes ensued for the next ten days, of which, however, we are unable to relate any notable incident, fraught as they were, we well know, with daily acts of splendid courage and hardihood.”

Admiral Porter and staff aboard his flagship, the "Malvern," later in the war.  (Library of Congress)

Admiral Porter and staff aboard his flagship, the “Malvern,” later in the war. (Library of Congress)

February 24

Battles: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: Just above Palmyra Island, the CS Queen of the West sinks the US Indianola. (8) While citizens of Vicksburg celebrate, US Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells tells Admiral Porter that the Indianola is too formidable to share the US Queen of the West’s fate by falling into Confederate hands. Porter decides to build a phony ironclad to prevent the Indianola‘s salvage. (24)


(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.

(21) Born to Battle: Grant and Forrest: Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga: The Campaigns That Doomed the Confederacy, Jack Hurst (2012).

(22) Yazoo Pass Expedition: Failed Attack on Fort Pemberton and Civil War Album page on the Yazoo Pass with direct source quotes.

(23) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).

(24) Admiral Porter’s Ironclad Hoax, Signal Corps Association.

(25) Captain Raphael Semmes and the CSS Alabama, US Naval Historical Center.

Categories: American Civil War

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