The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – December 9-15, 1863

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

Railroad bridge across a creek in Knoxville area, 1864.  (Library of Congress)

Railroad bridge across a creek in Knoxville area, 1864. (Library of Congress)

December 9

Military events: Eastern Tennessee operations/Knoxville Campaign: General Longstreet’s army reaches the vicinity of Rogersville. Food has been scarce for days, so the Confederates spend this week foraging and rebuilding railroads to Virginia. Meanwhile the pursuing US troops under General Parke reach Bean’s Station (US cavalry, some 16 miles from Longstreet) and Rutledge (US infantry, 32 miles from Longstreet); Parke decides to hold at these places.

The strong Confederate presence in East Tennessee does force Grant to rethink his strategies. He had wanted Sherman to stay in Knoxville longer, but the Army of the Tennessee is already on its way back to Chattanooga. (17)

South Carolina operations/Siege of Charleston: Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter continues. (19)

Unidentified black US soldier during the war.  (Library of Congress)

Unidentified black US soldier during the war. (Library of Congress)

Louisiana operations: “There was no question that racism was as rampant in the North as it ever was in the slaveholding south, and that certainly included a great many members of the United States military. There were few dedicated abolitionists like Robert Gould Shaw who were proud to command units of the United States Colored Troops, but many who found it mortifying. One of these latter was in command at Ft. Jackson, Louisiana, downriver from New Orleans. His loathing for this posting was translated into cruel and abusive treatment of the black soldiers under his command. Today they decided that this was behavior up with which they would no longer put, and they rose in mutiny. Other white officers at the installation managed to halt the uprising before blood was shed. This was not the first mutiny to happen at Ft. Jackson, but the last one was committed by Confederate troops after Farragut bypassed them to take New Orleans.” (9, including quote)

Other: “Unhappy with proposals from the mint director, Salmon Chase recommends the words “In God We Trust” be added to the design of the new one, two and three-penny coins.” (6)

December 10

Military events: Eastern Tennessee operations/Knoxville Campaign: CS President Davis offers Longstreet authority over all troops in Eastern Tennessee. Longstreet wants to take the offensive again. (17)

South Carolina operations/Siege of Charleston: Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter continues. (19)

General John G. Foster, ca. 1863.  (Library of Congress by way of Wikipedia)

General John G. Foster, ca. 1863. (Library of Congress by way of Wikipedia)

December 11

Military events: Eastern Tennessee operations/Knoxville Campaign: US General John Gray Foster assumes command of the Army and Department of the Ohio in Knoxville. General Burnside issues congratulations and thanks to his army and leaves the next day for Cincinnati, on his way home to Rhode Island. Grant urges Foster to go after Longstreet, but Foster tells him that a move is impossible at this point because of insecure logistics, weakened troops and worsening weather. In the meantime, Parke is holding at Rutledge and Bean’s Station. (17)

South Carolina operations/Siege of Charleston: Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter ends after a shell hits an ammunition magazine. The resulting explosion kills 11 Confederate soldiers and injures another 41. (9, 19)

December 12

Military events: Eastern Tennessee operations/Knoxville Campaign: Longstreet gets word that Sherman has headed back to Chattanooga and that pursuing forces under Parke have halted at Rutledge and Bean’s Station. He decides to attack the Federal cavalry at Bean’s Station. (17)

Blockade operations: “Smoke still rose this morning from the charred wood that until yesterday had been a large salt works in St. Andrew’s Bay, Florida. Acting Master W.R. Browne of the USS Restless, along with two other ships, had found the outpost and launched an attack on it. Artillery fire hit one of the houses of the workers, and wind had spread the flames until nearly the whole compound was incinerated. Brown wrote in his report, ‘It was in fact a complete village…employing many hands and 16 ox and mule teams constantly to haul salt to Eufaula Sound and from thence conveyed to Montgomery, at which place it is selling at fabulous prices – $40 and $50 per bushel.’ The operation included 22 large steam boilers and 300 kettles averaging 200 gallons each, used to evaporate sea water to harvest the salt. The 2000 bushels found were returned to the sea from whence they had come.” (9, including quote)

CS General S. D. Lee, while not generally known today, was so good, commanders wanted him in all places all the time.

CS General S. D. Lee, while not generally remembered today, was so good, commanders wanted him in all places all the time.

December 13

Military events: Eastern Tennessee operations/Knoxville Campaign: Longstreet sends probes toward Bean’s Station. The US commander there alerts General Parke of a planned attack. (17)

Northern Mississippi/West Tennessee operations: CS President Davis notifies General Joseph Johnston that General Forrest has been promoted and will supply Johnston’s needs so Johnston can move General Stephen Lee south (Forrest had asked that Stephen Lee be moved north into Tennessee). In Jackson, Tennessee, Forrest sends the some unarmed recruits southward for their own safety. (10; 11)

Military events/Other: “This time of year most armies were in winter camp or heading for them. This did not, however, mean that complete peace prevailed upon the land. Action happened at Hurricane Bridge in West Virginia; Powell’s River near Stickleyville in Virginia, along with others at Strasburg and Germantown there. Ringgold, Ga., saw some action as Longstreet’s corps moved for winter camp, and just plain old random fights at Meriwether’s Ferry on Bayou Boeuf, Arkansas. What should have been a routine family visit in Washington was complicated by great hostility, although no gunfire: Mary Todd Lincoln received her sister for a visit at the White House. The complicating factor was that her sister, actually half-sister, Emily Todd Helm, was the widow of Gen. Ben Hardin Helm, general of the Confederate States of America. There were actually demands that Mrs. Helm swear the loyalty oath before being allowed to visit her relatives.” (9, including quote)

December 14

Battles: Eastern Tennessee operations/Knoxville Campaign: Bean’s Station, day 1.

December 15

Battles: Eastern Tennessee operations/Knoxville Campaign: Bean’s Station, day 2.

Other: President Lincoln is recovered enough from his varioloid smallpox to work in his office and receive visitors there. (5)

Sources:

(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) The Western Gulf Blockade.  BrownWaterNavy.org.

(9) Civil War Interactive.

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

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

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

(13) This Week in the Civil War.

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

(15) Friends of the Hunley.

(16) CWSAC Battle Summaries

(17) 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]

(18) The CSS Alabama’s Indian Ocean Expeditionary Raid (Wikipedia).

(19) The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War.” (2002) David J. Eicher.

(20) A Brief Naval Chronology of the Civil War (1861-65).



Categories: American Civil War

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