The American Civil War 150th Anniversary: April 1-7, 1863

Here is a look at what was happening in the Civil War during the first week of April 1863.

The weather wasn’t all that great, to the dismay of those still in winter camps:

Camp 118th Regt. P[ennsylvania] V[olunteers]
April 5th, 1863

Dear Jacob:

. . . It has been snowing all night and there is now about a foot of slush on the ground. It only shows how very uncertain the elements are in Old Virginny. It is in the course of things for us to move shortly, but have no opinion as to where, but it must be a flank movement – we can’t do Fredericksburg again. However, I don’t know anything about it. Camp life is just now extremely dull – no news at all, and as the weather has put a stop to all out doors work, all manner of games are resorted to as a pastime. . . .

Captain Francis Adams Donaldson (source 17 below)

There is no rest, or boredom, for many Confederates, however. President Davis notes “the enemy occupied his former position before Fredericksburg . . . in great strength, and, so far as we could learn, was preparing on the grandest scale for another advance against Richmond, which in political if not military circles was regarded as the objective point of the war.” (9)

In Tennessee, CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his command carried out picketing, scouting and outpost duties between Springfield and Franklin all this week. (23) In Virginia, CS Captain John Mosby was busy in Fauquier County.

Taber Andrew Bain.

Fauquier County Courthouse Taber Andrew Bain.

April 1

Battles: Virginia operations, Fauquier County, near Dranesville:

Early the next morning one of my men, whom I had left over on the Leesburg pike, came dashing in, and announced the rapid approach of the enemy. But he had scarcely given us the information when the enemy appeared a few hundred yards off, coming up at a gallop. At this time our horses were eating; all had their bridles off, and some even their saddles – they were all tied in a barnyard.

Throwing open the gate I ordered a counter-charge, to which my men promptly responded. The Yankees never dreaming of our assuming the offensive, terrified at the yells of the men as they dashed on, broke and fled in every direction. We drove them in confusion seven or eight miles down the pike. We left on the field nine of them killed – among them a captain and lieutenant – and about fifteen too badly wounded for removal; in this lot two lieutenants. We brought off 82 prisoners, many of these also wounded. I have since visited the scene of the fight. The enemy sent up a flag of truce for their dead and wounded, but many of them being severely wounded, they established a hospital on the ground. The surgeon who attended them informs me that a great number of those who escaped were wounded. The force of the enemy was six companies of the First Vermont Cavalry, one of their oldest and best regiments, and the prisoners inform me that they had every available man with them. There were certainly not less than 200; the prisoners say it was more than that. I had about 65 men in this affair. In addition to the prisoners, we took all their arms and about 100 horses and equipments. Privates Hart, Hurst, Keyes, and Davis were wounded. The latter has since died.

Though Mosby admits in this letter “that on this occasion I had not taken sufficient precautions to guard against surprise,” General JEB Stuart, knowing that General Lee is waiting to make Mosby a major, recommends the young ranger for promotion. (11)

Cmdr. John P. Gillis in the early 20th century.  (Library of Congress)

Cmdr. John P. Gillis in the early 20th century. (Library of Congress)

Also in Virginia, “This was the second day of a voyage of Lt. Cmdr. Gillis’ and USS Commodore Morris up the Ware River in Virginia. They had had a report that there was a large store of grain stashed at a particular plantation, and sure enough they found 22,000 bushels. This morning they were preparing to load it onto their ship when a party of Confederate cavalry swept down. The sailors formed up in ranks, the ship’s guns fired, and the Navy beat the Cavalry decisively. More grain was hastily loaded, and the remainder was burned.” – Civil War Interactive (source 16)

Military events: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: With McClernand’s troops following the wagon road to New Carthage, Louisiana, in preparation for crossing the Mississippi south of Vicksburg, General Grant, along with General Sherman and Admiral Porter, reconnoiters along the Yazoo River and decides once and for all not to approach Vicksburg from the north. (8)

Emancipation: President Lincoln writes to General David Hunter about the African American troops deployed at Jacksonville, Florida, in March, saying:

I see the enemy are driving at them fiercely, as is to be expected. It is important to the enemy that such a force shall not take shape, and grow, and thrive, in the South; and in precisely the same proportion, it is important to us that it shall. . . . The enemy will make extra efforts to destroy them; and we should do the same to preserve and increase them.

April 2

Other: The Richmond bread riot. President Davis addresses the mob and tosses money from his pocket into the crowd. (6)

Military events: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: US General-in-Chief Henry Halleck telegraphs General Grant that President Lincoln is getting impatient and continually asking questions about Grant’s progress. (25) Meanwhile, today the president convinces Secretary of the Navy Welles that Admiral Farragut’s position on the Mississippi should be strengthened. Welles therefore orders Admiral Du Pont to send all but two ironclads to New Orleans as soon as Charleston surrenders. (5)

April 3

Battles: Snows Hill, Tennessee: Attacked by US forces, CS General John Hunt Morgan’s 2nd Brigade, under Colonel R. M. Gano, is forced to withdraw to McMinnville. (2) (Total forces involved and casualties vary quite a bit, depending on which side is reporting, so I haven’t included any.)

Military events: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: General Grant goes upriver to Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, to make arrangements to move his army to New Carthage. (8)

Other: President Davis tells Arkansas Governor Harris Flanagin, who has been complaining of not getting as much assistance as states in the Confederacy on the other side of the Mississippi, that “if we lose control of the Eastern side, the Western must almost inevitably fall into the power of the enemy.” (16)

April 4

Military events: In the waters off Brazil, the CSS Alabama captures the Louisa Hatch, carrying a large cargo of coal from Cardiff to Ceylon. (24) The coal will come in handy soon, when the Alabama runs low on fuel. (16)

April 5

Battles: US Admiral Du Pont moves on Charleston, detailing two gunboats to stand near buoys marking the safe channel between mines. (16)

April 7

Battles: South Carolina operations: The First Battle of Charleston Harbor. A fleet of US ironclads under Admiral Du Pont fails to take Charleston. (More on Paul Hamilton Hayne.)

Military events: President Lincoln, on a field visit to the Army of the Potomac, reviews Captain Donaldson’s corps and finds them “in splendid condition.” (17)

Edwin Forbes picture of Lincoln reviewing the Army of the Potomac (though not on the 6th because of bad weather).

Edwin Forbes picture of Lincoln reviewing the Army of the Potomac (though not on the 6th because of bad weather).


(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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