The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – August 26 – September 2, 1863

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

President Lincoln in August 1863.  (Library of Congress)

President Lincoln in August 1863. (Library of Congress)

August 26

Battles: Siege of Charleston Harbor: Fort Wagner still is in Confederate hands, but US forces manage to take the rifle pits in front of it. (10)

Other fighting happens at Rocky Gap, West Virginia ; Bayou Meto/Reed’s Bridge in Arkansas; and at Perryville in Indian Territory. (17)

Other: In discussing his critics in a letter to be read at a September 3rd meeting in Springfield, Illinois, US President Lincoln says,

To such I would say: you desire peace … But how can we attain it? … If you are not for force, nor yet for dissolution, there only remains some imaginable compromise. I do not believe any compromise, embracing the maintenance of the Union, is now possible. All I learn, leads to a directly opposite belief. The strength of the rebellion, is its military – its army. That army dominates all the country, and all the people, within its range. Any offer of terms made by any man or men within that range, in opposition to that army, is simply nothing for the present; because such man or men, have no power whatever to enforce their side of a compromise, if one were made with them.

August 27

Battles: “At least ten separate skirmishes marked the day: Bayou Meto, Arkansas; Mount Pleasant near Vicksburg, Mississippi; Carter County and Clark’s Neck, Kentucky; Elk River, Glenville and Ball’s Mill, West Virginia; Edwards Ferry [also known as Ball’s Bluff…Barb], Maryland; along with Little Washington and Weaverville, Virginia.” (17, including quote)

Military events: East Tennessee operations: US General Rosecrans begins to cross the Tennessee River at Caperton’s Ferry. His army is of such a size that it will take until September 4th to get the bulk of it on the southern bank. (13)

August 28

Battles: “Fighting occurred at Hartwood Church, Virginia; the Narrows near Shellmound, Tennessee; and at Jacksborough, Tennessee.” (17, including quote)

Military events: “No major battles occurred on this day, but that, as usual, did not mean that cleanup was not still going on from the last one, nor preparations for the next. Confederate Naval Lt. George W. Gift paid a visit to the shipyard above Mobile Bay, Alabama, to observe the progress in construction of the two vessels Tennessee and Nashville. The Tennessee was nice enough, but Gift was in awe of the immense Nashville. ‘She is tremendous!’ he wrote. ‘The wardroom…is six staterooms and a pantry long, and about as broad between the rooms as the whole Chattahoochee. Her engines are tremendous, and it requires all her width, fifty feet, to place her boilers. The Tennessee is insignificant alongside her.'” (10, including quote)

The CSS Nashville, built in 1863.  (Wikipedia)

The CSS Nashville, built in 1863. (Wikipedia)

August 29

Battles: “Operations against the Navajo Indians in New Mexico Territory intensified [per Wikipedia, ‘Events in the period of 1863 included a cycle of treaties, raids and counter-raids by the Army, the Navajo and a civilian militia, with civilian speculators often on the fringe’], and skirmishing occurred at Texas Prairie, Missouri [scroll down].” (17, including quote)

Military events: Siege of Charleston Harbor: After several successful practice dives, the CSS Hunley returns to the wharf where it sinks. Some say the commanding officer accidentally stepped on the dive pedal while the hatch was open; others report that it happened when the steamship moored next to the Hunley moved unexpectedly. In any event, four crew members escape; the other five drown. Within 72 hours, General Beauregard will order the boat raised. (10, 21)

A view of the Tennessee River near Ruby Falls in 1863, Matthew Brady (US National Archives)

A view of the Tennessee River near Ruby Falls in 1863, Matthew Brady (US National Archives)

East Tennessee operations/Chickamauga Campaign. Several sources give this date, as Rosecrans is crossing the Tennessee, as the start of the Chickamauga Campaign. (6, 23, 24)

Source 23 nicely summarizes Rosecrans task. He wants to hit “Bragg’s great feeder, the railroad from Atlanta to Dalton and Chattanooga” (13) but it won’t be easy:

Having crossed the Tennessee river in the vicinity of Stevenson and Bridgeport, Ala., the Federals found themselves confronted by Sand mountain, the northern extremity of which is known as Raccoon mountain. At the eastern base of this ridge runs Lookout creek, separating from Sand mountain the ‘parallel ridge known as Lookout mountain, whose abrupt termination, where Lookout creek empties into the Tennessee, looms up in the sky just southwest of Chattanooga. Beyond Lookout mountain a valley runs in the same general direction, drained by Chattanooga creek, east of which is another parallel ridge, more passable, called Missionary ridge, the northward termination of which is east of Chattanooga and is pierced by the tunnel of the Georgia State railroad. East of Missionary ridge lies the most important of these valleys, McLemore’s cove, which is traversed by the west branch of Chickamauga creek, and ends 25 miles below Chattanooga in a junction of the mountain ridges. Pigeon mountain is the next running a parallel course of 40 miles, and still further east are the ranges of Chickamauga hills and Taylor’s ridge. These must all be traversed by Rosecrans, six ridges separated by valleys and creeks, before he could reach the railroad communications of Bragg.

Fort Sumter in August, 1863.  (Library of Congress)

Fort Sumter in August, 1863. (Library of Congress)

August 30

Battles: Siege of Charleston Harbor: “The bombardment of the incredibly sturdy old Fort Sumter continued in Charleston Harbor today. The breech batteries (cannon) of the Union attackers on Morris Island fired round after round, and inflicted damage in places. As gun placements were damaged by the fire, the Confederate defenders would dig the guns out and transport them into Charleston proper. Return fire was of course attempted. It did little damage to the Federals but in a tragic accident, the Confederates of Fort Moultrie fired on a small steamship that was thought to be bringing reinforcement to the Yankees. It held reinforcements, all right…but they were fellow Southerners. The ship was sunk.” (10, including quote)

Arkansas operations/Little Rock Campaign: Skirmishing at Washington and at Shallow Ford on Bayou Meto. (17)

August 31

Battles: “Minor fighting marked the end of August with action on the Marais des Cygnes, Kansas [where a massacre in 1858 had horrified the nation]; at Winter’s Gap, Tennessee; and Will’s Valley, Alabama [part of the Chickamauga Campaign].” (17, including quote)

General Nathan Bedford Forrest.  (Wikipedia)

General Nathan Bedford Forrest. (Wikipedia)

Military events: Chickamauga Campaign: CS General Bragg has withdrawn from Chattanooga and is concentrating his troops in Dalton and Lafayette in Georgia. CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest follows orders to evacuate East Tennessee with all his forces except Scott’s Brigade, which is to guard the bridge at Loudon and burn it upon the approach of the enemy (done September 2, below). Upon arriving in Chattanooga, Forrest and his men are deployed “wheresoever the Commanding General determined that cavalry were wanted to cover the movements of the Confederates in the coming evacuation of that position ; and to observe the movements likewise of Rosecrans, who now revealed a manifest purpose to cross the Tennessee river westward of Chattanooga, with the object of striking a blow, by way of Will’s Valley, at Bragg’s communications.” Union commanders all the way up to General-in-Chief Halleck, are anxiously try to monitor the location of Forrest’s forces and wondering about his plans. (4, including quotes; 13)

September 1

Battles: Arkansas operations/Little Rock Campaign: The Battle of Devil’s Backbone. (6) Fort Smith, in western Arkansas, falls to US forces. (17)

Siege of Charleston Harbor: “In Charleston Harbor, mortar fire smote Battery Wagner on Morris Island, and heavy Parrott rifles and ironclads hammered Fort Sumter once more. Firing of 627 shots ended the second phase of the first major bombardment. Once more, Fort Sumter crumbled, and its magazine was threatened, but the garrison continued to shore up the ruins and remained defiant.” (17, including quote)

Chickamauga Campaign: Skirmishes at Will’s Creek and at Davis’ Tap’s, and Neal’s Gaps, Alabama. (23)

Military events: Chickamauga Campaign: General Bragg orders General Simon Buckner and his 9000 men to Chattanooga. (12) CS President Davis tells Tennessee’s Governor Isham G. Harris that reinforcements and arms are on their way to Chattanooga. (17)

September 2

Military events: East Tennessee operations/Knoxville Campaign: US General Burnside enters and occupies Knoxville uncontested. Federal forces press Scott’s Brigade hard all the way from Big Creek Gap to Loudon. Scott’s rearguard delays US forces long enough for the rest of the Confederates to cross the river, and they set fire to the railroad bridge while crossing, thus severely hampering Burnside’s ability to link up with Rosecrans and supply his men from Chattanooga. (6, 20)

Building a pontoon bridge across the Tennessee River after Confederates destroyed a bridge in 1863.  (Library of Congress)

Building a pontoon bridge across the Tennessee River after Confederates have destroyed the original bridge in 1863. (Library of Congress)


(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.

(23) The Chickamauga Campaign, Civil War Home.

(24) The Chickamauga Campaign, About North Georgia

Categories: American Civil War

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