The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – August 19-25, 1863

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

It was one of those weeks in the war where the hate (and sometimes blood) was just overflowing everywhere. I’m very, very glad I’m looking back on it from a distance of a century and a half.

August 19

Military events: Quantrill’s raid. Guerrilla leader and Confederate supporter William Quantrill gathers 294 men in Columbus, Missouri, organizes them into four companies and plans out a raid on Lawrence, Kansas. (22)

Other: The draft resumes in New York City, this time without violence. (10)

General Simon Boliver Buckner.  (Wikipedia)

General Simon Boliver Buckner. (Wikipedia)

August 20

Military events: East Tennessee operations: CS General Bragg, in Chattanooga, learns that US General Rosecrans and his army have reached the Tennessee River at Bridgeport (30-40 miles away) and tells CS General Simon Buckner in Knoxville to come to Chattanooga’s aid.

Buckner, facing US General Burnside’s XXII Corps advancing on Knoxville through the mountains towards Tennessee in two lines, had earlier actually asked Bragg for assistance, but Chattanooga’s rail junction is considered more important. Bragg tells him to fall back to the Hiwassee River. (20, Wikipedia)

Quantrill’s raid: At around 5 p.m., the raiders cross the Kansas state line “within plain view of a camp of a small detachment of Union soldiers, but as the guerrillas outnumbered the troops five to one Capt. Pike, in command of the camp, offered no resistance, contenting himself with sending word of the movement to Kansas City. About 11 o’clock that night they passed Gardiner, where they burned a house or two and killed a man.” (22, including quote)

August 21

Military events: Quantrill’s raid: The Lawrence Massacre. “The attack had been perfectly planned. Every man seemed to know his place and what he was to do. So quietly were detachments made, every section of the town was occupied before the citizens comprehended what was happening. With a very few exceptions the raiders had their own way. For some four hours the town was at their mercy—and no mercy was shown.” The raiders now number over 400 men, and they kill every man they can find who is old enough to carry a gun – but not US Senator James Lane, though he is at the top of their list. The senator is hiding out in a cornfield in his nightshirt and survives. (22, including quote)

Siege of Charleston Harbor: The intense Federal barrage of Confederate positions is continuing daily. Confederates attack the USS New Ironsides with a David-class torpedo boat for the first time. The attack is unsuccessful. (6)

The Federal ironclad New Ironsides in action with two monitors (top) versus the CSS David (a surface vessel, though very low in the water), with torpedo spar deployed.

The Federal ironclad New Ironsides in action with two monitors (top – click to enlarge) versus the CSS David (a surface vessel, though very low in the water), with torpedo spar deployed.

August 22

Military events: East Tennessee operations: General Buckner takes 8,000 men and abandons Knoxville, much to the consternation of Confederate supporters in the region. Garrisons are left at key points. (20, Wikipedia)

Siege of Charleston Harbor: Federals fire the “Swamp Angel” from Morris Island on downtown Charleston. (19)

Other: “As if Jefferson Davis did not have enough problems to contend with. He was supposed to be finding reinforcements to shore up Gen. Braxton Bragg’s shaky hold on Chattanooga and eastern Tennessee; coping with the loss of Vicksburg and thereby the entire trans-Mississippi portion of the Confederacy; scrounging up food, horseshoes and other vital supplies for Robert E. Lee’s army in northern Virginia. To top it off he was now having difficulty even finding out what was going on. The postal clerks of the city of Richmond had all quit. The entire workforce walked out in a wage dispute with the government. Letters from Aunt Gertrude and reports from the field were all sitting in bags, undelivered.” (10, including quote)

August 23

Military events: Siege of Charleston Harbor: Federals continue firing the “Swamp Angel” on downtown Charleston until its barrel explodes. (19)

Possibly the Swamp Angel battery. (Source)

Possibly the Swamp Angel battery. Look at the base closely (click to enlarge) – that is how field expedience handles a 220-pounder’s recoil on sand. (Source)

Virginia operations: Confederate naval officer Captain John Taylor Wood and his men capture two US gunboats, the Satellite and the Reliance, at the mouth of the Rappahannock River. (10)

August 24

Military events: East Tennessee operations: General Burnside and his headquarters leave London, Kentucky, effectively cutting communication with his base until he can reach Knoxville. The soldiers are on half-rations as they cross mountains and ford streams, heading for the Tennessee state line. Residents of the Cumberland Plateau, a Unionist region, are amazed to see the Federal troops, and gather in sometimes large groups along the roadside from as far as 12 miles away. Some Unionists decide the time has come for revenge for all they’ve suffered at the hand of Confederate sympathizers, eventually driving the pro-secessionists out of the highlands. As the march continues and they descend the eastern escarpment of the Cumberland Plateau and get into the Tennessee River Valley, the US troops will be met with a mixed reaction, with some locals welcoming them jubilantly, while others just show “contempt and hatred.” (12, 20)

Virginia operations: While working behind US General Meade’s lines, Major John Mosby suffers his first serious wound of the war in a skirmish at Gooding’s Tavern near Annandale. He will be back at work in a month. (10)

August 25

Military events: “In response to Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence, Kansas, Brigadier General Thomas Ewing [US] orders civilians out of their homes in 3 Missouri counties (Jackson, Cass and Bates) and parts of a fourth (Vernon). Union soldiers burn the homes, barns and crops.” (6, including quote) This was Ewing’s controversial General Orders 11, an attempt to create a free-fire zone where anybody found will be assumed to be a Confederate and shot on sight. Some 20,000 people lose their homes. (10)


(1)  The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

(2)  Morgan’s Raiders.

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

(9)  Conquest of the Lower Mississippi.

(10) Civil War Interactive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(17) This Week in the Civil War.

(18) The affair at Jackson, Louisiana.

(19) The Siege of Charleston, “The State.” (South Carolina)

(20) The Knoxville Campaign: Burnside and Longstreet in East Tennessee, Earl J. Hess (2012) [Note: The dating is difficult to follow in this source, though it’s excellent for details…Barb]

(21) Friends of the Hunley.

(22) Quantrill’s Raid. The State Library of Kansas.

Categories: American Civil War

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