The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – February 25-March 3, 1863

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

Fake ironclad, "Black Terror," per "Harper's Weekly."  (Wikipedia, Library of Congress)

Fake ironclad, “Black Terror,” per “Harper’s Weekly.” (Wikipedia, Library of Congress)

February 25

Military events: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: At 11 p.m., US Admiral Porter launches his mock-up, the Black Terror, by simply cutting it loose to let the river current take it slowly down past Vicksburg.

Sure enough, Confederate salvage parties, working on raising the USS Indianola, instead scuttle that ship and spike its guns so no one will be able to use it ever again.

As they prepare for battle, however, the Black Terror drifts past and, two miles downriver, gets hung up on a mud bank.

Curious now that the ship didn’t fire on them as it passed, nor has any Yankee crewman yet appeared on deck despite the mystery boat’s mishap, Confederates send in a party from shore, and only then discover that they have been tricked into destroying the sunken gunboat that they had wanted to salvage and use against the US. (24)

Meanwhile, General Grant is moving ahead with plans for a two-prong attack on Vicksburg. Despite his misgivings about the project – and because President Lincoln likes the idea – work continues on a canal on the west bank of the Mississippi River that will allow the Federals to take boats and transports south of Vicksburg, avoiding the batteries. Then they can cross the big river safely and attack the town from the rear.

"The head of the canal, opposite Vicksburg, Miss., now being cut by command of Gen. Grant," in Leslie's, 1863.   (Library of Congress)

“The head of the canal, opposite Vicksburg, Miss., now being cut by command of Gen. Grant,” in Leslie’s, 1863. (Library of Congress)

There is also now enough water in the Yazoo Pass area, north of Vicksburg, for General Grant to send in light-draft gunboats, beginning the Yazoo Pass Expedition. The plan for this joint Army-Navy force is to go via the Coldwater, Tallahatchie, and Yazoo rivers until they can reach high ground east of Vicksburg, joining in on the rear attack. (8, 21, 22)

Other: The National Banking Act becomes law in the US, standardizing the national currency and laying the groundwork for banking system that will prevail for fifty years after the war. (3)

February 26

Emancipation:  At Cowskin Prairie in what is now Oklahoma, one faction of the divided Cherokee people repeals the Cherokee ordinance of secession, abolishes slavery and comes out for the Union. (16)  Source 16 gives the date as the 26th, but other online sources indicate this happened on the 18th.  Either way, the Cherokee make it clear to their newly emancipated slaves that they are not welcome to stay and may not become citizens.

Other: US Attorney General Bates consults with Lincoln about anti-draft riots in Missouri. (5) I can’t find any mention of such riots – which would have been among the first in the nation during 1863 – in online resources, but those, of course, are very limited. Do you have any documented information about them?

Color version of a "Harper's Weekly" print of the "Alabama."  (Source)

Color version of a “Harper’s Weekly” print of the “Alabama.” (Source)

February 27

Battles: The CSS Alabama captures the merchant ship Washington, later releasing it on bond. (16, 25)

February 28

Battles: Georgia operations: The privateer Rattlesnake (formerly the CSS Nashville) runs aground in front of Fort McAllister, where the USS Montauk destroys it. Later in the day, the Montauk hits a torpedo and has to beach on a mud bank for repairs. (6, 16)

March 1

Other: The US Army Paymaster tells General Grant that there is now enough money available to meet Grant’s five divisions’ worth of back pay through October 31, 1862 – $4 million (1862-63 dollars!). Other Federal officials, however, warn against sending that much money into a combat zone, and Grant’s army will remain unpaid. (21)

March 2

Battles: The CSS Alabama captures and burns the USS John A. Parks. (25)

The "USS Montauk" at Fort McAllister a month earlier, per "Harper's Weekly."  (Library of Congress)

The “USS Montauk” at Fort McAllister a month earlier, per “Harper’s Weekly.” (Library of Congress)

March 3

Battles: Georgia operations: Naval assaults on Fort McAllister resume, lasting eight hours, but the damage to the fort’s sand wall is quickly repaired. (6)

Military events: President Lincoln signs the US Conscription Act into law. (8) For the first time in American history, military recruiting will be done at the federal level (by means of new Provost Marshals), not by each state. Any able-bodied draftee, however, can avoid service by sending someone in his place or by paying $300, thus igniting protests that the conflict now is “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight,” even though there is precedence for such payments in France, which already has a long history of conscription, and the sum of $300 is designed to be low enough for a man of moderate means to buy his way out of service. (10)

Protest music, 1863-style.  (Library of Congress)

Protest music, 1863-style. (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.

(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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