Here is a look at what was happening in the Civil War, 150 years ago this week.
Soldier life at Vicksburg
The city’s defenders have to stay in the trenches, but besieging soldiers can get a little time off. Per source 11, below, they:
played cards, sang, wrote letters to the folks back home or wrote in their journals (provided they could write), cleaned their guns, played baseball, whittled on pieces of wood, and carried on camp life. Books were treasured, and at night around a campfire, men who were literate sometimes read aloud to an eager audience. The novels of Charles Dickens were especially popular.
At night when officers weren’t around, the Rebels and Yanks occasionally visited back and forth or even left their trenches to talk, joke, taunt each other, and share photos of loved ones. …
One day a private from Wisconsin simply said to the Yanks around him that he was going to shake hands with the Rebs. He set down his gun and climbed out of his trench. Before long, several hundred men from both sides were out in the open exchanging news and trading Southern tobacco for Northern coffee. When a Union officer broke up the party, the men returned to their trenches and resumed shooting at each other.
Said one soldier of the enemy, “They agreed with us perfectly on one thing: If the settlement of this war was left to the enlisted men of both sides, we would soon go home.”
The US soldiers are working hard, too. Federal field works are now very close to Confederate defenses (obviously, given the above), and so are the mines underground. Confederates put up new defenses and dig countermines. (23)
Military events: Tennessee operations: CS General Forrest takes his entire division (leaving a strong picket line in place), as well as two Georgia regiments, and moves out to Triune on a reconnaissance in force. After driving off US cavalry on the Chapel Hill pike, Forrest sets up his light artillery and shells a nearby Union encampment. The Federals send infantry out in force, and Forrest withdraws beyond the Harpeth River, having learned how many and what type of US forces are in the area. In the meantime, his brother Major Jeffrey Forrest has captured a large herd of beef cattle that were intended for the US army. Confederate forces under Starnes also make a demonstration toward Nashville and burn the railroad bridge at Brentwood that the Federals have reconstructed. (4, 17)
Military events: Gettysburg campaign: CS General Ewell, under General Lee, approaches the town of Winchester, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. Some 6900 US troops are garrisoned there. (29)
I understand the meeting, whose resolutions I am considering, to be in favor of suppressing the rebellion by military force—by armies. Long experience has shown that armies can not be maintained unless desertion shall be punished by the severe penalty of death. The case requires, and the law and the constitution, sanction this punishment. Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wiley agitator who induces him to desert? This is none the less injurious when effected by getting a father, or brother, or friend, into a public meeting, and there working upon his feeling, till he is persuaded to write the soldier boy, that he is fighting in a bad cause, for a wicked administration of a contemptable government, too weak to arrest and punish him if he shall desert. I think that in such a case, to silence the agitator, and save the boy, is not only constitutional, but, withal, a great mercy.
If I be wrong on this question of constitutional power, my error lies in believing that certain proceedings are constitutional when, in cases of rebellion or Invasion, the public Safety requires them, which would not be constitutional when, in absence of rebellion or invasion, the public Safety does not require them—in other words, that the constitution is not in it’s application in all respects the same, in cases of Rebellion or invasion, involving the public Safety, as it is in times of profound peace and public security. The constitution itself makes the distinction; and I can no more be persuaded that the government can constitutionally take no strong measure in time of rebellion, because it can be shown that the same could not be lawfully taken in time of peace, than I can be persuaded that a particular drug is not good medicine for a sick man, because it can be shown to not be good food for a well one. Nor am I able to appreciate the danger, apprehended by the meeting, that the American people will, by means of military arrests during the rebellion, lose the right of public discussion, the liberty of speech and the press, the law of evidence, trial by jury, and Habeas corpus, throughout the indefinite peaceful future which I trust lies before them, any more than I am able to believe that a man could contract so strong an appetite for emetics during temporary illness,  as to persist in feeding upon them through the remainder of his healthful life.
Military events: Tennessee/Kentucky operations – Morgan’s Great Raid (preliminary): Different dates and varying accounts are given among sources checked, so I will just stick to source #2 below, The L&N Railroad in the Civil War, for consistency. On or about June 13, CS General John Hunt Morgan tells General Wheeler that the Federal force at Louisville, Tennessee, is no more than 300 men and asks permission to move against it. Wheeler checks with General Bragg. (2)
Battles: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: At Port Hudson, General Banks again assaults the city, but haphazardly, and casualties are even higher than the assaults of May 27th. (25)
Military events: Tennessee/Kentucky operations – Morgan’s Great Raid (preliminary): General Wheeler tells General Morgan that he may take 1500 men and whatever artillery he wishes to capture Louisville. Morgan asks for and gets permission for another 500 men. (2)
Gettysburg campaign/Winchester: General Ewell has Winchester almost completely surrounded. (29) In Washington, Lincoln convenes a meeting at the War Department to try to figure out “what Lee is up to.” (5)
Gettysburg campaign/Winchester: Federal troops try to break out of Winchester overnight and are smashed by General Ewell. US casualties are 4,443 men (mostly prisoners). The Confederates also capture 23 artillery pieces and tons of food.
Although the New York Times reports the “rebels repulsed with great slaughter” at Winchester, in fact the way to Pennsylvania is now open to General Lee, whose first elements have already reached Chambersburg in the Cumberland Valley. Lee is unaware that General Hooker is in hot pursuit. CS General JEB Stuart is riding around the Army of the Potomac, but gets cut off and is unable to communicate with Lee. (29)
Military events: Mississippi operations/Vicksburg: General Grant receives reinforcements in the form of two divisions of the IX Army Corp under General John Parke. (7)
Gettysburg Campaign: President Lincoln issues a proclamation calling for 100,000 militia from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and the brand-new state of West Virginia. (5) The President also places Hooker under General Halleck’s command – the beginning of the end for Hooker. (19)
(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