The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – March 25-31, 1863

Here is a look at what was happening in the Civil War this week in March 1863.

March 24

Battles: Brentwood, Tennessee. Despite some problems linking up early in the day, CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Col. James Starnes and their men temporarily seize an important railroad depot outside Nashville. (4, 23)

Off the coast of Brazil: The CSS Alabama captures the Charles Hill and Nora, both bound for Boston with cargoes of salt. (24)

Other: Lincoln puts General Ambrose Burnside in charge of the Department of the Ohio. Burnside’s new jurisdiction includes all states bordering the Ohio River, and using the Treason Act of 1862/Second Confiscation Act, Burnside starts a political campaign against the Peace Democrats. (8, 15)

Theodore Davis's image of the rams running Vicksburg, in "Harper's Weekly."  (US Naval Historical Center)

Theodore Davis’s image of the rams running Vicksburg, in “Harper’s Weekly.” (US Naval Historical Center)

March 25

Battles: Mississippi Operations/Vicksburg: US Admiral Porter sends two rams downriver to Admiral Farragut past the Vicksburg batteries by day. One is sunk and the other -the Switzerland – is heavily damaged. Farragut’s two ships – the Hartford (his flagship) and the Albatross – accompany the damaged ram as its crew does repairs. (12)

Emancipation: US Secretary of War Stanton orders General Lorenzo Thomas to go to the Mississippi Valley and recruit African Americans. The US Army has 5 black regiments on this date. By the end of the year, there will be 20. (25)

March 26

Emancipation: US President Lincoln writes to Andrew Johnson, the military governor of Tennessee, urging him to recruit African Americans, saying, “The bare sight of fifty thousand armed, and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi, would end the rebellion at once. And who doubts that we can present that sight, if we but take hold in earnest? If you have been thinking of it please do not dismiss the thought.” No reply from Johnson has ever been found. (5)

March 27

Military events: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: Both of Farragut’s ships are out of fuel. Grant manages to float two coal ships past Vicksburg. (16)

Bayou Teche in 2007 (Natalie Maynor)

Bayou Teche in 2007 (Natalie Maynor)

March 28

Battles: Mississippi Operations/Bayou Teche: US General Banks, hoping to bypass the Confederate batteries at Port Hudson in an attempt to communicate with Farragut’s fleet and control the mouth of the Red River, has sent General Weitzel to capture Confederate positions at Bisland on Bayou Teche and Fort Bisland on the Atchafalaya River. Weitzel sends the gunboat USS Diana on a reconnaissance mission up Bayou Teche, where it is captured. (12)

Federal troops burn Jacksonville, Florida. (16)

March 29

Military events: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: Thwarted in the bayous and canals, General Grant has another plan, and it scares subordinates: With the Mississippi falling, he can march troops on the Louisiana side of the river from Milliken’s Bend 37 miles south to New Carthage, Louisiana. Grant can then go further south to link up with General Banks, who will head north to meet them at Port Hudson, Louisiana, as Lincoln has been urging him to do. They can capture everything between Port Hudson and Warrenton, Mississippi.

Grant also realizes he can cross the Mississippi at New Carthage where roads on the Mississippi shore will take him both to Vicksburg and Jackson, the capital of Mississippi. To do this, however, he will need to bring gunboats, transport steamers and barges downriver past miles of Vicksburg batteries. (In Mexico, by the way Grant fought alongside John Pemberton, now the Vicksburg garrison’s commander and one of the few Northern officers to join the Confederacy.)

Library of Congress.  Note:  This probably wasn't written to commemorate McClernand's march.  I just liked the image (click to enlarge).

Library of Congress. Note: This probably wasn’t written to commemorate McClernand’s march. I just liked the image (click to enlarge).

General Sherman, concerned that the plan will fail and leave General McClernand, another Lincoln appointee, in power, argues against it, but today Grant puts into operation, sending General McClernand toward New Carthage with some 20,000 troops, 6 million small-arm rounds and 10 six-gun batteries with 300 rounds per gun. They are to follow a winding wagon road that leaves the Mississippi above Vicksburg and returns to the river’s shore below the city. (8, 21, 25)

Meanwhile, Lincoln spots a fake news story. “Utter humbuggery”! (6)

March 30

Battles: The CSS Florida captures at least one barque, the M. J. Colcord. After transferring the Colcord’s crew to a Danish ship, the Confederates sink her. (16)

March 31

Battles: “A Confederate assault was begun today on the Federal garrison of Washington. You do not remember this catastrophe from your history books, because it involved the garrison of Washington, North Carolina, not the District of Columbia. Large quantities of artillery were used to keep the offshore Union gunboats from getting close enough to assist. Although they were not much use militarily, the gunboats did run in supplies that enabled the garrison to resist.” – Civil War Interactive.

Military events: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: Admiral Farragut, his two ships and the now-repaired ram Switzerland head downriver, engaging Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf on their way to patrol the mouth of the Red River. (12)

Library of Congress.  Image taken between 1863 and 1865.

Library of Congress. Image taken between 1863 and 1865.


(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) The record of Hon. C. L. Vallandigham on abolition, the Union, and the Civil War. C. L. Vallandigham (1863)

(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.

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

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

(25) A. Lincoln, A Biography, Ronald C. White, Jr. (2009)

Categories: American Civil War

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