Here is a look at what was happening in the Civil War, 150 years ago this week.
Battles: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: Battle of Clinton, Louisiana. (28)
Military events: Gettysburg Campaign: The Army of Northern Virginia, CSA, begins to slowly shift positions west from Fredericksburg. (29) General Hooker has been ordered to keep the bulk of the Army of the Potomac between Lee and Washington. Lee has his division commanders move their troops at different times and in different directions. (19)
Tennessee operations: Confederate observers note the main US force moving from Franklin to Triune. (4)
Other: Suppression of the Chicago Times (21): Judge Drummond posts his circular on his office door, and it is soon picked up by the Chicago press. Before noon, citizens are reading “extras” telling them that “Judge Drummond will do everything in his power to prevent any military encroachment of the Constitutional right of the people, namely, freedom of speech and press, and no military commander can override the supreme law of the land.”
The Chicago Tribune reports:
(Special Dispatch to the Chicago Tribune)
Springfield, June 2, 1863
The proprietors of the Chicago Times have telegraphed here today stating that they are willing to conform to military orders if allowed to continue the publication of the paper and asking General Burnside’s pleasure. They also state that they will be here in the morning to see Burnside. General Burnside, it is said, will require them to take the oath of allegiance and give bonds for the future conduct of their paper. This, it is said, will be done, and the publication will be allowed to be resumed.
Followed the next day by a special dispatch to the Chicago dated Cincinnati, June 3, 1863
General Burnside has remarked “That freedom of discussion and criticism which is proper in the politician and the journalist in times of peace, becomes rank treason when it tends to weaken the confidence of his soldiers, his officers and his government … Furthermore, it is the duty of a commanding officer to expel it from his lines … But arrests should be made on full affidavits, sustaining distinct charges, except the exigencies of the case demand instant action.”
In the meantime, prominent Chicago Republicans have sent a telegram to President Lincoln, asking him to rescind Burnside’s order.
At 3 p.m., soldiers appear at the Chicago Times building, and after patrolling the area for a while with fixed bayonets, and at 5 p.m., they break into the building, stop the presses, tear up all newspapers that have already been printed, order everybody out and take military possession of the building.
By evening, some 20,000 citizens have assembled in the area – a full half of them Republicans, the Tribune is later grieved to report. It is a nonviolent demonstration, with speeches made and telegrams of support from other states and governing bodies read. The news is telegraphed to President Lincoln.
Military events: Tennessee operations: CS General Forrest sets out to reconnoiter the Franklin area to see what troops remain. There are US troops there, and skirmishes and small engagements will occur over the next few days. (4)
Mississippi operations/Vicksburg (23): US General Blair, on General Grant’s orders, completes his destruction of Mechanicsburg, Mississippi:
I used all we could and destroyed the rest. We must have burned 500,000 bushels of corn and immense quantities of bacon. I destroyed every grist-mill in the valley and drove away about 1,000 head of cattle. I brought with me an army of negroes [sic] equal to the number of men in my command, and 200 or 300 head of mules and horses. Brought in 30 or 40 bales of cotton and burned all the balance found.
Other: Suppression of the Chicago Times: Lincoln asks that the suspension be revoked. It is. (21)
Battles: The CSS Alabama captures the Talisman, en route to Shanghai, and burns it. (18)
Military events: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: In an attempt to help Vicksburg by cutting Grant’s supply line (and unaware that Grant has shifted his supply line across the river), one of CS General Walker’s units attacks and captures Richmond, Louisiana, which is defended by the African Brigade. The US troops withdraw and send word of the Confederate threat. (23)
Meanwhile, General Grant has set sail on the river for Satartia, Mississippi, and Mechanicsburg, but turns back after learning of enemy action in the area. (7)
Military events: Tennessee operations: Having established that US divisions in the Franklin area are heavily reinforced from Triune, General Forrest withdraws some three miles from Franklin and camps in a disputed area.
Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: Benjamin Grierson, newly promoted to general after his raid through Mississippi, occupies Clinton, Louisiana.
Battles: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana. The inexperienced and outnumbered troops of two regiments of the Louisiana Native Guard, supported by the 23rd Iowa, lose over half their men but fend off the attackers and hold until two US gunboats arrive and drive the Confederates away.
According to a deserter’s report afterwards, Confederates later hanged a white officer and several black enlisted men who were prisoners, although the Confederate commander denies it when queried by General Grant. Too, US Admiral Porter went ashore at the time of the battle and noticed that many of the fallen were “mostly shot on top of the head.” The question, unanswered, is whether all those wounds were inflicted during the hand-to-hand combat that had taken place there. (16)
Military events: Tennessee operations: At around 9 a.m., two Federal regiments advance on Forrest’s camp. The Confederates attempt an ambush, which is “partially successful.” The US troops withdraw. (4, including quote)
Battles: Gettysburg Campaign: Brandy Station. The largest mounted engagement in the Americas, with some 22,000 USA and CSA cavalrymen. Results were inconclusive. It is said to be “the apogee of the Confederate cavalry in the East” but it also built up the confidence of Union cavalry. However, US forces don’t learn of the nearby Confederate army and so are unaware of General Lee’s move against them. (6, 29, 30)
Military events: Tennessee operations: CS General Bragg orders General Forrest to do a reconnaissance in force at Triune. (4, 17)
Mississippi operations/Siege of Vicksburg: From source 10, below, for June 9, 1863:
To support the Army’s artillery, four 9-inch smooth-bore Dahlgren guns were removed from RICHMOND and, with great difficulty (each gun weighing over 9,000 pounds), moved into position to fire on the Confederate defenses. Manned by their Navy crews, these huge guns could hurl a 70-pound shell a distance of 3,450 yards. Corporal James Hosmer of the 52nd Mass., described the firing of these weapons; “Clash go my teeth together, my bones almost rattle. Then follows the hungry, ravenous shriek of the shell, which breaks forth like a horrible bird of prey to devour the whole world.”
Meanwhile, in the caves around Vicksburg, a mother and daughter have a very close call one day, when two large shells fall nearby and explode spontaneously. “Don’t cry, my darling,” says the mother. “God will protect us.” The four-year-old replies that she’s afraid God has already been killed. (11)
(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.
(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. BrownWaterNavy.org.
(11) Under Siege: Three Children at the Civil War Battle for Vicksburg, Andrea Warren (2009)
(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.
(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.
(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.
(28) Port Hudson Photo Album, Civil War Album.
(29) Gettysburg Campaign, Encyclopedia of Virginia.
(30) Gettysburg Campaign Timeline, Today in Civil War History.
Categories: American Civil War