The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – May 27 to June 2, 1863

Once there came a man
Who said,
“Range me all men of the world in rows.”
And instantly
There was terrific clamour among the people
Against being ranged in rows.
There was a loud quarrel, world-wide.
It endured for ages;
And blood was shed
By those who would not stand in rows,
And by those who pined to stand in rows.
Eventually, the man went to death, weeping.
And those who staid in bloody scuffle
Knew not the great simplicity.
— Stephen Crane, “V” in “The Black Riders and Other Lines,” 1895

Perhaps those who “staid in bloody scuffle” knew a greater simplicity than Crane could understand.

On Memorial Day, we remember those whose stay became permanent, many of them with so much of their lives still in front of them.

Every day is a memorial day.

Thank you.


A civilian repairing telegraph lines in 1863 or 1863.  Library of Congress

A civilian repairing telegraph lines in 1862 or 1863. Library of Congress

Here is a look at what was happening in the war, 150 years ago this week.

Union communication lines were abuzz with excitement as everybody tried to verify where the Confederate forces were and figure out how to send as much help as possible to Grant at Vicksburg; Confederate communications were about improving Vicksburg’s defenses and sending help to the city. (29)

Also included is a closer look at the interaction between General Burnside and the Chicago Times.

This wasn’t the first or only regional newspaper Burnside shut down. However, its editor fought back and the resulting brouha eventually forced President Lincoln to intervene. This affair has influenced free speech issues in wartime America ever since.

May 27

Battles: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: Confederate artillery fire sinks the US gunboat Cincinnati with considerable loss of life. The ladies of Vicksburg watch from the bluff, cheering. (11)

Mississippi Operations/Port Hudson: General Banks launches intense frontal assaults against Confederate defenses. Among the attacking forces are the first official black troops to be sent into combat, the 1st and 3rd Louisiana Native Guards. Attacks are uncoordinated and, in the Native Guards case, very poorly led at the top levels.** Port Hudson’s defenders easily fend off the attacks, and US casualties are high. For the next couple of weeks, both sides will strengthen their positions, and General Banks will be reinforced. Union gunboats begin bombardment of Port Hudson today and will continue for the next 42 days. (10, 25, 26)

**Per source 26, US General William Dwight, Jr., in charge of the Native Guards is the 31-year-old son of an old Massachusetts family, and he has decided

to test the negro [sic] question … I have had the negro Regts longest in the service assigned to me and I am going to storm a detached work with them. You may look for hard fighting, or for a complete run away. … the [Confederate] garrison will of course be incensed and fight defiantly. The negro will have the fate of his race on his conduct. I shall compromise nothing on making this attack for I regard it as an experiment.

On the 27th, General Dwight is drunk before breakfast, per source 26. When the 3rd Louisiana’s commander, Colonel John A. Nelson, asks him what the ground would be like, Dwight tells him it is the easiest approach into Port Hudson.

He lies.

The Guards take position under the cover of some trees and are initially supported by two artillery guns and some dismounted troops from other regiments. However, when these take hits from the defenders, they withdraw, leaving the Guards on their own.

At about 10 o’clock the Guards charge, and after getting within 200 yards of the Confederate main line, are forced to withdraw, leaving behind scores of dead and wounded without inflicting a single injury on the Confederates. Colonel Nelson sends an aide to ask General Dwight for orders. The aide finds Dwight sitting on the ground, leaning on a tree. Dwight orders continued charges. Colonel Henry Finnegass, in charge of the 3rd Louisiana, refuses to obey orders. Colonel Nelson, realizing that General Dwight is too drunk to come view the battle’s progress itself, orders the Guards to remain in the trees and to keep firing, as Dwight can hear the gunfire.

The trees can’t stop incoming artillery fire, and there are more casualties. By the end of the day, the 1st Louisiana has lost 2 officers and 24 enlisted men, with 3 officers and 92 men wounded; the 3rd has 10 killed and 38 wounded. (Combined, the Guards had had less than 540 men at the start.)

Truce is called in the evening to retrieve and bury the dead, except in the Guards’ sector. Their dead must lie there. The stench gets so bad that Colonel Shelby of the 39th Mississippi Infantry, CSA, sends a note to US General Banks, asking Banks to allow Shelby’s men to go out and bury the dead. Banks replies that there are no Union dead in that sector.

Meanwhile, wildly exaggerated and sometimes erroneous news accounts of the Guards are printed up North. (26)

This did not happen.  Source

This did not happen. Source

Military events: Mississippi events/Vicksburg: Across the Mississippi, CS General E. Kirby Smith is trying to help Vicksburg by destroying Union supply depots on the west bank in Louisiana and Arkansas. This actually doesn’t affect the besieging forces, who are now getting supplies shipped to them on the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg. Some time in late May, Kirby Smith orders General Richard Taylor and his 5000-man force (all Texans, and the only division in the Civil War whose members all came from the same state) to attack posts at Milliken’s Bend, Young’s Point and Lake Providence, in Northeast Louisiana.

The Army of the Tennessee’s newly organized African Brigade is on duty in the District of Northeast Louisiana. Under Colonel Isaac Fitzgerald Shepard (who reports to General John Parker Hawkins), the brigade is composed of the three regiments – the 1st Regiment Infantry (African Descent), 3rd Regiment Infantry (African Descent) (both Mississippi volunteers, I believe) and 8th Louisiana Regiment Infantry (African Descent).

Other (21): The Chicago Times suppression (background). The paper has taken the Peace Democrat viewpoint since its purchase by Wilbur Storey in 1861. Even in an age of strong opinions and blazing rhetoric, it stands out. The overall tone of its editorials is echoed in a letter to the editor published today about Clement Vallandigham’s recent banishment to the Confederacy shows:

As one reads the account of the expulsion of Mr. Vallandigham beyond the Federal lines, the ceremony seems like the funeral of civil liberty. Guilty of no offense save devotion to the Union … charged with no offense save the exercise of the right of freedom of speech given to him by the same power which made Abraham Lincoln President … he has violated no law, he is punished because of his maledictions of those who do violate law — of those who daily pollute their souls with perjury in breaking their solemn oaths to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States”. If a terrible retribution does not fall upon the authors of this foul wrong, then is not God just!

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., President Lincoln telegraphs General Hooker, who is in Virginia, asking, “Have you Richmond papers of this morning? If so, what news?” Lincoln also telegraphs General Rosecrans, in Tennessee, asking “Have you anything from Grant? Where is [Gen. Nathan B.] Forrest’s [(CSA)] Head Quarters?” (5)

May 28

Military events: The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (this is the Glory regiment), leaves Boston for Hilton Head, South Carolina, expecting to fight for the Union. (12)

May 29

Military events (29) Generals Pemberton and Johnson exchange messages:

JACKSON, May 29, 1863.

Lieutenant-General PEMBERTON:

I am too weak to save Vicksburg. Can do no more than attempt to save you and your garrison. It will be impossible to extricate you, unless you co-operate, and we make mutually supporting movements.

Communicate your plans and suggestions, if possible.

J. E. Johnston.


Vicksburg, May 29, 1863.

General JOSEPH E. Johnston:

Your dispatch of 25th received this evening, with 20,000 caps. Fontaine yesterday with 18,000. No other messengers from you since(18th). I have dispatched about 8 messengers. I have 18,000 men to man the lines and river front; no reserves. I do not think you should move with less than 30,000 or 35,000, and then, if possible, toward Snyder’s Mill, giving me notice of the time of your approach. The enemy encompass my lines from right to left flank, occupying all roads. He has three corps; Sherman on my left, McPherson center, McClernand on my right, and Hurlbut’s DIVISION, from Memphis, and Ellect’s Marine Brigade(the last afloat). Enemy has made several assaults. My men are in good spirits, awaiting your arrival. Since investment, we have lost about 1,000 men; many officers. You may depend on my holding the place as long as possible. On the 27th, we sank one of their best iron-clad gunboats.


Other: General Burnside offers his resignation to Lincoln over the Vallandigham affair; Lincoln declines it for now. (6)

May 30

Military events: Virginia operations: General Lee completes the restructuring of the Army of Northern Virginia into three corps, headed by Generals Longstreet, Ewell and A. P. Hill. (6)

Other: Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts introduces a New York Committee to President Lincoln. The committee is confident that at least 10,000 black citizens would volunteer for military service if they could have General John Fremont for their leader. Lincoln tells them “that he would gladly receive into the service not ten thousand but ten times ten thousand colored troops; expressed his determination to protect all who enlisted, and said that he looked to them for essential service in finishing the war.” The president also discusses things later with Senator Sumner. (5)

May 31

Battles: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: Skirmish at Perkin’s Landing, Louisiana. McCullough’s Brigade of CS General Walker’s division attacks “a camp of instruction and insurrection for negroes [sic]” at Perkin’s Landing. “Perkins Landing was no place for Union troops to be having breakfast today–they were up against the river, cut off from help, and surrounded by Confederates. To their relief and rescue, the USS Carondelet, Lt. Murphy at the helm, came steaming up, guns firing to drive off the attackers. Murphy had no means to remove the men, so he stayed in position to protect them until the troop transport Forest Queen arrived to take off the men and such of their supplies as they had room for.” (quote is from source 12)

Middle Tennessee operations/Ambush on Carter’s Creek Road: In response to recent surprise Federal attacks on Confederate pickets, some of General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s men turn the tables and ambush a US detachment. (4)

Military events: General Grant tells General Banks he cannot send him reinforcements and that “Vicksburg is the vital point. Our situation is for the first time during the Western campaign what it should be. We have, after great labor and extraordinary risk, secured a position which should not be jeopardized by any detachments whatever. … My arrangements for supplies are ample … All I want now are men.” Grant believes CS General Johnston is at Canton, Mississippi, with somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 men, and has been told that CS General Bragg in Tennessee has detached three divisions to come to Vicksburg’s aid. (29)

Fred survived the war; that's him on the horse in this 1868 engraving.  Library of Congress.

Fred survived the war; that’s him on the horse in this 1868 engraving. Library of Congress.

Meanwhile, somewhere around this time, Fred Grant, who turned 13 in May, has developed typhoid and dysentery, as well as an infection in his wounded leg, and General Grant sends his son to stay with his wife’s sister Emma in Kentucky and recuperate.

Fred does get better. However, a week after Fred arrives, a man dressed as a Confederate officer stops by Emma’s place for some water and casually asks if Fred Grant is visiting. Emma tells him no, but she immediately puts Fred on a boat back to Vicksburg.

The day he departs, several “hard-riding, grim-looking and tattered cavalrymen” ride up and ask to see Fred. Emma tells them he has gone and adds that some Union gunboats will be coming up the river shortly, saying, “Perhaps you gentleman will be interested in seeing them.” The men laugh, wish her a good day, and leave. Grant will keep Fred at his side from now on. (11)

June 1

Other (21): The Chicago Times suppression. The following notice appears in all the Cincinnati newspapers:

Headquarters, Department of the Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio – June 1, 1863
General Order No. 84:

I – The tendency of the opinions and articles habitually published in the newspaper known as the New York World being to cast reproach upon the government, and to weaken its efforts to suppress the rebellion, by creating distrust in its war policy, its circulation in time of war is calculated to exert a pernicious and treasonable influence, and is therefore prohibited in this department.

lI – Postmasters, news agents, and all others will govern themselves by this order, as any person detected in forwarding, selling, or in any way circulating the paper referred to, will be promptly arrested and held for trial.

III – On account of the repeated expressions of disloyal and incendiary sentiments, the publication of the newspaper known as the Chicago Times is hereby suppressed.

IV – Brigadier General Jacob Ammen, commanding the District of Illinois, is charged with the execution of the third paragraph of this order.

By Command of Major-General Burnside

(Signed) Lewis Richmond
Lieutenant Colonel and
Assistant Adjutant General

As Paul notes, “It must be remembered that Chicago was a Democratic city, that it had a Democratic mayor and council, and that the Times was by now the Democratic Party’s official mouthpiece.”

The news travels quickly across the Northwest (as that Midwest region was called then) and to the East Coast. President Lincoln discusses Burnside’s order with Secretary Stanton. (5)

June 2

Military events: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: General Grant, still thinking General Johnston will soon attack him, sends a brigade under General Joseph A. Mower to Mechanicsburg, MS, where Johnston most likely will attack. (7)

Rumors of an impending attack are reported to General Grant by an officer at Milliken’s Bend. (29)

Other (21): The Chicago Times suppression. The other big paper in town, the Chicago Tribune, organ for the Republican party, prints the following headline without comment: “THE BLOW HAS FALLEN THE CHICAGO TIMES IS SUPPRESSED!”

Meanwhile, at the Times, every department gets a rush order, the presses are started early and papers are rushed out to a safe location as soon as they’re printed.

What were they printing?  Probably this. (Click to enlarge)  Source.

What were they printing? Probably this. (Click to enlarge) Source.

A horseman is sent out to monitor Camp Douglas for the first signs of troops moving out. Editor Storey receives a despatch from General Burnside ordering him to “conduct yourself accordingly,” i.e., in accordance with General Order 84. Then the horseman arrives with news that soldiers are on the way. Twelve soldiers arrive to take possession of the office. Storey, the Democrat, engages a Republican law firm, whose lawyers draw up a restraining order against General Burnside and take it to Federal Judge Thomas Drummond, even though by now it’s late at night.

Per Paul, “Judge Drummond knew of the affair, and at once expressed himself as decidedly opposed to General Burnside’s drastic move in interfering with the freedom of the press. The Judge said he realized the possibilities of a general overriding his powers and saddling his orders on civilians who were beyond military jurisdiction.” After hurriedly reading the bill of restraint, Judge Drummond announces he will place this case first on the docket for the following morning, with the hearing planned for around nine o’clock.

One of the judge’s servants takes a brief of the restraining order to the soldiers in possession of the Times, and they leave after noting, “By tomorrow, soldiers enough will have arrived from down state who will make it possible to carry out the General’s orders.”

Meanwhile, Judge Drummond, before going to bed, writes a note, addressed to the citizens of Chicago, assuring them that civil law still prevails, the courts are open (when martial law is declared, courts must close), and that everything possible will be done to have the order revoked. When he goes to work tomorrow, he will pin it on his office front door.

Meanwhile, in the Confederacy President Davis orders Clement Vallandigham, who has been exiled there, to be sent to Wilmington, North Carolina, and confined as an enemy alien. (12)

In Washington, Lincoln is interviewing General John Reynolds for command of the Army of the Potomac. He also meets with his cabinet, who support Grant but feel that not enough is being done. The president then asks Grant, by telegram, if he is in communication with General Banks. (5)

General Sherman is in favor of a draft:

WALNUT HILLS, MISS., June 2, 1863.

Major General U. S. GRANT, Present:

DEAR GENERAL: I would most respectfully suggest that you use your personal influence with President Lincoln to accomplish a result on which it may be the ultimate peace and security of our country depends. I mean his use of the draft to fill up our old regiments. I see by the public journals that a draft is to be made, and that 100,000 men are to be assigned to fill up the old regiments, and 200,000 to be organized as new troops.

I do not believe that Mr. Lincoln, or any man, would, at this critical period of our history, repeat the fatal mistakes of last year. Taking this army as a fair sample of the whole, what is the case? The regiments do not average 300 men, nor did they exceed that strength last fall. When the new regiments joined us in November and December, their rolls contained about 900 names, whereas now their ranks are even thinner than the older organizations. All who deal with troops in fact instead of theory know that the knowledge of the little details of camp life is absolutely necessary to keep men alive. New regiments, for want of this knowledge, have measles, mumps, diarrhea, and the whole catalogue of infantile diseases; whereas the same number of men, distributed among the older regiments, would learn from the sergeants and corporals and privates the art of taking care of themselves, which would actually save their lives and preserve their health against the host of diseases that invariably attack the new regiments. Also recruits, distributed among older companies, catch up, from close and intimate contact, a knowledge of drill, the care and use of arms, and all the instructions which otherwise it would take months to impart. The economy, too, should recommend the course of distributing all the recruits as privates to the old regiments, but these reasons appear to me so plain that it is ridiculous for me to point them out to you, or even to suggest them to an intelligent civilian. I am assured by many that the President does actually desire to support and sustain the army, and that he desires to know the wishes and opinions of the officers who serve in the woods instead of in the “salon. ” If so, you would be listened to.

It will take at least 600 good recruits per regiment to fill up the present army to the proper standard. Taking one thousand as the number of regiments in actual existence, this would require 600,000 recruits. It may be the industrial interests of the country will not authorize such a call. But how much greater the economy to make an army and fight out this war at once?

… I regard this matter as more important than any other that could possibly arrest the attention of President Lincoln, and it is for this reason that I ask you to urge it upon him at this auspicious time. If adopted, it would be more important than the conquest of Vicksburg and Richmond together, as it would be a victory of common sense over the popular fallacies that have ruled and almost ruined our country.

With great respect, &c,,



A video with photographs of the Old Courthouse Museum in Vicksburg, by Tanya Jacobson-Smith:


(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)  Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(8)”The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” (Vol. II), Jefferson Davis.

(9) The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: The Story of America’s Most Reviled President. Larry Tagg, 2009.

(10)  Conquest of the Lower Mississippi.

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

(12) Civil War Interactive.

(13) Inside the Army of the Potomac, the Civil War Experience of Captain Francis Adams Donaldson, edited by J. Gregory Acken (1998).

(14) Mosby Heritage Area Association: Chronology of Mosby’s Life.

(15)  Battle of Vicksburg. Civil War Home.

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

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

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

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

(20) The Civil War and the Press. Sachsman et al., 2000.

(21) Suppression of the Chicago Times: June 1863. Norma Ann Paul, Loyola University thesis, 1932.

(22) Civil War Raids and Skirmishes in 1863.

(23) The Siege of Vicksburg, Civil War Home.

(24) Siege of Vicksburg, Wikipedia.

(25) The siege of Port Hudson, National Park Service online lesson plan.

(26) The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War. James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., 1995.

(27) This Week in the Civil War.

(28) Port Hudson Photo Album, Civil War Album.

(29) Miscellaneous Documents. US Congress, 1891.

Categories: American Civil War

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