The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – April 8-14, 1863

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

Bayou Teche at Jeanerette (Cajun Byrd)

Bayou Teche at Jeanerette (Cajun Byrd)

In the western theater, some 20,000 Union troops under General McClernand, heavily armed and laden, are heading for New Carthage, Louisiana, while US General Banks is trying to bring troops north from New Orleans, bypassing Confederate batteries at Port Hudson, to communicate with Admiral Farragut. Confederate forces are resisting Banks, with some success, in the First Bayou Teche Campaign.

General Grant, meanwhile, is visiting with his wife Julia and son Fred at Milliken’s Bend, preparing the river fleet for the run past Vicksburg’s cannon in the coming week, after which any surviving vessels will ferry McClernand’s forces across the river. Once in Mississippi, they plan to march to Jackson, the state capital, seize it and then head west overland to Vicksburg. President Lincoln is supportive of another plan in which Grant heads further south, connects with General Banks at Port Hudson, and establishes control of everything between Port Hudson and Warrenton.

Yes, it’s confusing – even with an 1863 map of the area by the London Illustrated News. Let’s head to the eastern theater, instead.

Oh, great - a time bubble in Fredericksburg!  (Matthew Straubmiller)

Oh, great – a time bubble in Fredericksburg! (Matthew Straubmiller)

The 75,000-plus Army of Northern Virginia is in winter quarters on the southern shore of the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, while the 133,000 troops of the Army of the Potomac are reviewed by President Lincoln.

Elsewhere in Virginia, CS General James Longstreet, in command of some 20,000 men of the departments of Virginia and North Carolina, is multitasking by protecting Richmond, being ready to support the Army of Northern Virginia when needed, gathering supplies for Confederate armies, and if possible, capturing the 25,000-man Union garrison at Suffolk, Virginia.

Some of these troops, blue and gray, will be on the move before the week is out.

April 8

. . . [President Lincoln] reviewed the whole army. Poor man, how bored he must have been. Just to think how often he had to bow his head in acknowledgment of drooping colors and “Hail to the Chief” from every regiment. Well, it did us all good to see “Uncle Abe” taking the kindly interest he does in our welfare. It was a magnificant sight, however, the well drawn line of masses, doubled on the centre, while all was as quiet as death, as is usual on such occasions, evrry man looking straight to the front, no turning of heads as the President, Genl. Hooker & Head Quarter staff come sweeping along. There is no finer disciplined army on this or any other continent than the Army of the Potomac, and the 5th Corps, with its full division of Regular troops, is the peer of any similar body of armed men in existence today. . . .
— Captain Francis Adams Donaldson (source 17, below)

OK, it wasn’t really like this . . .

. . . and yet, in the way it resonates for us today, it was.

April 9

Military events: Tennessee operations/Franklin: US General Rosecrans, having heard that CS General Van Dorn intends to attack Franklin, Tennessee, sends General Stanley and his cavalry brigade to reinforce General Granger, who is in command of Franklin. Meanwhile, Confederate scouts, having observed some US troops leaving Franklin and heading towards Triune, report that the Federals may be evacuating Franklin. General Van Dorn orders a reconnaissance in force by Generals W. H. Jackson** and Nathan Bedford Forrest, with about 3100 men and Freeman’s battery of 6 artillery pieces, at Franklin for the 10th. Van Dorn, who has argued with Forrest, rides with W. H. Jackson’s force. (4, 22)

**Note: This is not General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who is currently in Virginia serving under General Lee; I call him General Jackson, as he wished (he felt the First Brigade had earned the “Stonewall,” not he), and any other Jacksons of that rank will be consistently referred to with initials to distinguish them from him.

Colonel Abel Streight (Library of Congress)

Colonel Abel Streight (Library of Congress)

Tennessee operations/Chattanooga and Streight’s Raid into Alabama and Georgia: If he can’t fight CS General Bragg, US General Rosecrans wants to shift him out of Chattanooga, south of the Tennessee River, into Georgia, by destroying Bragg’s resupply lines – the railroads to Atlanta and Knoxville. US Colonel Abel Streight of Indiana, in Nashville and ordered to prepare “for an expedition to the interior of Alabama and Georgia, for the purpose of destroying the railroads of that country,” reports to Generals Rosecrans and James Garfield that “[w]e can start in three hours from the time of receiving orders.” (22, including quotes)

April 10

Battles: First Battle of Franklin, Tennessee: With the arrival of Stanley’s cavalry at mid-morning, General Granger reports having 5,194 effective infantry, 2,728 cavalry, and 18 field and 2 siege guns defending Franklin. Later in the day, Stanley’s men “came unexpectedly on the flanks of [CS Colonel J. W.] Starnes and Freeman’s battery with very serious results to the Southerners.” (22) General Forrest counterattacks and rescues the battery. CS Captain Freeman (who led the battery) is killed while in US custody. Stanley’s cavalry retreat but Van Dorn cancels the operation and withdraws to Spring Hill. (4)

Military events: Streight’s Raid (preliminaries): Col. Streight is ordered to embark on steamers and sail up the Cumberland River to Palmyra, where his troops will land and march cross-country to Fort Henry on the Tennessee. (22)

April 11

Military events: Streight’s Raid (preliminaries): Col. Streight and his force of about 2,000 officers and men arrive at Palmyra, Tennessee. Streight sends the boats to Fort Henry via the Ohio and up the Tennessee while his force sets off on land, seizing every mule they can along the way. The raid will be conducted on mules since the country of northern Alabama and northwestern Georgia is hilly and rather barren, and more suitable for mules than horses. (22)

Virginia operations: General Hooker tells President Lincoln of his plan to use cavalry to block Lee’s withdrawal from Fredericksburg to Richmond, and then, once Federal horsemen are in place, to cross the Rappahannock and attack. Lincoln concurs. (5)

Battles: Virginia operations/Siege of Suffolk: Confederate forces begin the operation by crossing the Nansemond River. When US General Peck responds by securing the Suffolk garrison, they entrench by the river and settle in for a siege. For the next several days Longstreet will strike from the south, with CS General Pickett’s division probing Union lines for weaknesses (and finding none). (6, 25)

April 12

Battles: First Bayou Teche Campaign/Fort Bisland/Bethel Place: At the only fort that can impede General Banks’ advance, Union and Confederate troops engage in an artillery duel that lasts until dark.

Nansemond River in 2007 (Tobyotter)

Nansemond River in 2007 (Tobyotter)

April 13

Battles: Virginia operations/Siege of Suffolk: Longstreet’s men construct a battery on Hill’s Point and at Norfleet House just below Suffolk, which stops supplies being shipped to the Suffolk garrison up the Nansemond. (25)

First Bayou Teche Campaign/Fort Bisland/Bethel Place: Federals begin their advance again at 9 a.m., but fighting doesn’t start for two more hours. It continues, again, until nightfall.

During the night of the 13th and 14th, CS General Richard Taylor, commander of Fort Bisland, learns that a US division under General Cuvier Grover has gone up the Atchafalaya and landed in the Franklin (Louisiana) area. He orders an overnight evacuation to avoid having his retreat cut off. (Wikipedia)

Military events: South Carolina operations. President Lincoln tells Admiral Du Pont to hold his position inside the sand bar at Charleston Harbor. (5)

Other: In Ohio, General Burnside issues infamous General Order 38. (6) It effectively strips citizens in his departments of their right to trial in civil courts for the duration of the war. Burnside is now the one who will decide what is proper criticism of the government and what is treason. Outraged, one editor writes, “We claim the right to discuss public matters . . . and as a conductor of the public press, to give our interpretation of the law.” (15)

In the Confederacy, President Davis calls on citizens to plant what today we would call “victory gardens.” (16)

April 14

Military events: South Carolina operations: President Lincoln clarifies his orders to Admiral Du Pont and General Hunter to hold the position at Charleston. (5)

Virginia operations: Near Fredericksburg, US cavalry, concentrating on the Rappahannock, is resisted by Confederate forces. (9)

Battles: Virginia operations/Siege of Suffolk: Union gunboats try to run the Norfleet House battery, and the USS Mount Washington is badly damaged. However, Federal forces are busy constructing hidden batteries that will command the Confederate guns at Norfleet House. (25)

First Bayou Teche Campaign/Centreville/Irish Bend: General Taylor’s forces, having evacuated Fort Bisland, meet US General Grover’s division near Franklin. At first they skirmish, but soon all-out fighting develops. The numerically superior US troops are forced to fall back at first, but then a US gunboat arrives and anchors the Confederate right. Taylor, outnumbered, withdraws.

Meanwhile, near the Atchafalaya, at Grand Lake, the Confederate ram Queen of the West is attacked by three US gunboats and destroyed.

The Battle of Irish Bend, "Harper's Weekly" via Son of the South.

The Battle of Irish Bend, “Harper’s Weekly” via Son of the South.


(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) Under Siege: Three Children at the Civil War Battle for Vicksburg, Andrea Warren (2009)

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

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

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

(25) The Siege of Suffolk. Wikipedia.

Categories: American Civil War

Tags: , , ,

3 replies

  1. I’ve got interested in American history all of a sudden, really since watching some Western films. They have got me thinking about what motivated people to make a life for themselves in the ‘West’. The shadow of the Civil War was always there.

    My own latest blog posting is a brief look at the mythology of the Old West.

  2. Clint Eastwood’s comment in “Josey Wales” really resonated in 1970s America: “I guess we all died a little in that d***n war.” Americans and territorial settlers in the 19th century, though, had a quite different take on things

    Most of us love both North and South now. Hollywood gave us John Wayne as a dutiful but eventually traumatized Union soldier in “The Horse Soldiers” (he shouts, “I didn’t want this!” during a battle in a Mississippi town) as well as a returning Confederate soldier headed West in “The Searchers.”

    By the way, I better appreciate Stan Jones’s uncredited turn as General Grant besieging Vicksburg in “The Horse Soldiers” after doing the anniversary timeline this year! Seems pretty accurate, except that they emphasize his drinking per the myth. Actually, he likely would have had his son Fred at his side at that point.

    Anyway, Hollywood can’t really show the truth about what motivated people to go west – though not for lack of trying. After the Civil War, a lot of Southern people did head west; however, many stayed. I’d recommend Thomas Nelson Page’s “The Burial of the Guns” for insight into what motivated those who went home to the devastated South in April 1865. I plan to use it at the end of this series in 2015.

  3. My G-G-Grandfather Private John Kelly faught and died in the Battle of Irish Bend on April 14,1863.He was the Father of five children one of which was his Son my G-Grandfather Marine Private Robert Kelly who at the same time served aboard the USS Ossipee in the Blockade of Mobile Bay.I always wonder if he was notified of his Fathers death, being so close.Thank God he survived the entire War or I and all my siblings would’nt be here today.Thank You for keeping these stories alive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: