The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – June 17-23, 1863

Here is a look at events in the Civil War 150 years ago this week.


Source is interactive.

But first, a look at what US General Rosecrans has been doing in Middle Tennessee (31, 32).

The Tullahoma Campaign

He ultimately intends to bring his Army of the Cumberland against Chattanooga, but CS General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee is in his way, occupying some challenging topography – the Highland Rim, a series of small hills (700 feet in elevation, on average) that can only be crossed through a few gaps.

Guy’s Gap and its turnpike is guarded by CS General Leonidas Polk’s corps. CS General William Hardee’s corps guard Bell Buckle Gap (railroad) and Liberty Gap (turnpike) at Wartrace, as well as Hoover’s Gap (turnpike) at Beech Grove.

Although he’s been pressured by President Lincoln, General-in-Chief Halleck and Secretary of War Stanton to move out since January, Rosecrans has taken time to think things through and now plans to use deception and speed to outmaneuver Bragg and drive his army out of Tennessee with a series of light attacks and aggressive actions.

General Bragg, meanwhile, has spent the last several months hampered by illness and contending with discontent among his subordinates that has been strong enough to prompt President Davis to send General Joseph Johnston out to review the situation. Johnston sent a favorable report back to Richmond and Bragg has retained his command.

He is now based at Tullahoma, with his infantry in front of him behind the Highland Rim, along a 15-mile line with cavalry under Generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joseph Wheeler stretched far beyond either flank. Supplies are the reason for this deployment, which while okay is not an ideal defensive position: Bragg has been directed by Richmond to live off the land to allow most of the supplies in the Atlanta Depot to go for the eastern army.

There is also CS General John Hunt Morgan’s cavalry up in McMinnville, but they are preparing for a raid north. General Bragg tells him to pay attention to what is happening in Tennessee. General Wheeler tells Morgan, “Should you hear that the enemy is advancing for a general engagement, General Bragg wishes you to turn rapidly and fall upon his rear.” Per Wheeler later, at no time is anything said about Morgan crossing the Ohio River. (2)

Back in May, General Bragg sent 3000 cavalry under General W. H. Jackson to General Johnston in Mississippi, as well as an infantry division under General John Breckinridge, to use against General Grant. Bragg will be unable to send more help to relieve Vicksburg once Rosecrans moves against him.

The CSS Atlanta.  Wikipedia

The CSS Atlanta. Wikipedia

June 17

Battles: Georgia coastal operations: The ironclad CSS Atlanta engages the USS Weehawken and USS Nahant before surrendering. (6)

Military events: Gettysburg campaign: The Army of Northern Virginia continues Northwards, with cavalry skirmishes at Middleburg, Thoroughfare Gap and Aldie, Virginia. (27)

June 18

Military events: General Lee reports that three corps are continuing their northern advance and General JEB Stuart’s cavalry holds the approaches to the Blue Ridge. There is skirmishing at Aldie, Virginia (27)

Other: General Grant fires General McClernand for insubordination, replacing him with General Edward Ord. (16)

June 19

Military events (11) The siege of Vicksburg continues. In town, one day, a young black boy is guiding a white nun back from the hospital where she has been working. They meet a Confederate corporal who salutes the sister and steps aside so she can pass. Just then, a shell with a slow-burning fuze falls at the corporal’s feet. The corporal tumbles down the hill to safety, and the black boy grabs the shell and throws it away. The nun asks him why he didn’t do that at once, and the young slave replies that he has “too much respect” for white folk to act while the “gentleman” was standing there – meaning that he could have been punished or sold for doing such a thing until it was absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, the city’s wells are almost dry and drinking water is rationed to one cup of water per person per day. Small animals and pets are now food sources. Soldiers’ rations have been cut to just 14.5 ounces of food per day: a little rice and pea bread, which tastes terrible and makes some people sick.

In Vicksburg, they have to print newspapers on the back of wallpaper.  Library of Congress

In Vicksburg, they have to print newspapers on the back of wallpaper. Library of Congress

June 20

Battles: Central Middle Tennessee operations: CS General Forrest attacks Federal forces at Triune, and his brother Jeffrey captures a large herd of beef cattle, per source #4. (Per source #17, this happened on the 10th.)

In the South Atlantic, the CSS Alabama captures the bark Conrad out of Buenos Aires, bound for New York with a cargo of wool and goatskins. Captain Semmes renames the ship the CSS Tuscaloosa and outfits it with guns and a 15-man crew. That evening, he boards the English bark Mary Kendall, having his surgeon treat a badly injured English seaman. In return, the Mary Kendall’s captain agrees to take the Conrad’s captured crew back to Rio. Semmes then decides to “stretch over to the Cape of Good Hope” at the southern tip of Africa. (18)

Eastern Tennessee: US Colonel W. P. Sanders, of General Burnside’s Department of the Ohio, leads a cavalry raid against Knoxville to scout out the enemy and interrupt communications and transportation.

Military events: General John Hunt Morgan starts out on his raid but returns after hearing of the attack on Knoxville. (2)

The city of Baltimore is erecting breastworks north and west of the city for protection, and at Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, the owner of the Union Hotel blurs his sign with brown paint. (27)

Other: West Virginia becomes a US state. (6) Thanks to the Wiley Amendment, no slave over 21 years of age there is emancipated, and no fugitive slaves will be allowed in.

June 21

Battles: In Mississippi, there is fighting at Hudsonville and on Helena Road; in Brashear City, Louisiana; at Powder Springs Gap in Tennessee; and Dixon’s Island Plantation in South Carolina. (27) Firing is heard at Aldie’s Gap and apparently at White Plains.

The siege of Vicksburg - Major General U.S. Grant, commanding.  A. E. Mathews.  Library of Congress.

The siege of Vicksburg – Major General U.S. Grant, commanding. A. E. Mathews. Library of Congress.

Military events: Siege of Vicksburg. A mine is sprung under the works where the CS 31st Regiment is deployed. It’s not a very good one and does more harm to the diggers than the Confederates. (15)

June 22

Military events: Middle Tennessee operations/Tullahoma Campaign (preliminary): General Bragg has heard that the US Army of the Cumberland will be moving soon and orders General Forrest to withdraw his picket lines and return to Tullahoma via Shelbyville. The weather is unusually wet. (17, 32)

Siege of Vicksburg: General Grant, concerned that General Johnston might attack his rear, stations a division at the Big Black River bridge. Another US division is patrolling in the Mechanicsburg area for the same reason. (24) There is also fighting at the Big Black River, at Jones’s Plantation near Birdsong Ferry, and at Hill’s Plantation near Bear Creek. (27)

“One would think that the people least affected by the War of the Rebellion would be the salt-soaked fishermen of New England. Their sons may have gone off to fill the regiments of Connecticut and Maine, but there was still the same need for cod and whale oil as there ever was. Alas, the war came to them today, in the person of Charles Read. Not as famous as Captain Semmes and his Alabama, Read and his ship Tacony today added to his record of disrupting Federal maritime activities by seizing five fishing schooners off New England.” (12, including quote)

June 23

Military events: Middle Tennessee operations/Tullahoma Campaign (preliminary): General Rosecrans issues orders to move. (31)

Gettysburg campaign: The Army of Northern Virginia begins crossing the Potomac from Harper’s Ferry into Maryland, heading for Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, US Generals Hooker and Halleck have been bickering and are still unsure of where Lee actually is. (6, 9, 30)

Siege of Vicksburg (1):

Vicksburg, June 23, 1863.

General JOSEPH E. Johnston, Jackson:

If I cut my way out, this important position is lost, and many of my men, too. Can we afford that? If I cannot cut my way out, both position and all my men are lost. This we cannot afford. Should suggest the probability of Grant’s being open to terms that can result more to our advantage than either of the above actions. Not knowing your force or plans, he may accede to your proposition to pass this army out with all its arms and equipage . This proposal would come with greater prospects of success and better grace from you, while it necessarily could not come at all from me. You could make the showing of my ability and strength to still hold out for several week longer, which, together with his impression regarding your strength, might operate upon him to comply with your terms. While I make this suggestion, I still renew my hope of your being, by force of arms, enabled to act with me in saving this vital point. I will strain every nerve to hold out, if there is hope of our ultimate relief, for FIFTEEN days longer. It is reported that some of the enemy’s forces are moving up toward the Yazoo. It is also reported that some of his forces have moved along the Hall’s Ferry road to Big Bayou, near Warrenton, where they are temporarily massing. These movements indicate the lengthening of the enemy’s lines, and the increase of the area of his operations.



(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) Henry Halleck’s War: A Fresh Look at Lincoln’s Controversial General-In-Chief, by Curt Anders

(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) Gettysburg Campaign, Encyclopedia of Virginia.

(30) Gettysburg Campaign Timeline, Today in Civil War History.

(31) The Tullahoma Campaign, Campaign Journal. Middle Tennessee State University.

(32) The Tullahoma Campaign, The Beginning of the End for the Confederacy, Julian D. Alford (PDF)

Categories: American Civil War

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