The American Civil War, day by day - Page 62 - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#15163074
Doug64 wrote:Especially considering the land they were “given” for reservations. And don’t forget oil and gas leases.

Indeed. They give them a barren wilderness and then tell them to become farmers. With no training, no seeds, and no equipment. It's no wonder the reservations were soon echoing to the sound of roulette wheels. :lol:
#15163259
@Potemkin, humor aside, to be fair to Lincoln, that was mostly after his time—both the barren reservations and what use the Amerinds have made of them. He had the Amerinds’ best interests at heart, to the extent he had the time, energy, and influence (not much on any of those counts). And for that time, his prescription wasn’t wrong.

March 28, Saturday

There is an engagement at Pattersonville, Louisiana, between Confederate land forces and Union gunboats. USS Diana is captured.

In addition to a skirmish at Hurricane Bridge, West Virginia, a Federal expedition operates from La Grange to Moscow and Macon, Tennessee, until April 3.
#15163444
March 29, Sunday

General Grant’s new plan for capturing Vicksburg is bold to the point of rashness. Facing an enemy that outnumbers him almost 2 to 1, he is proposing to carry out an amphibious landing with no certain way of supplying his army after it is ashore, and with no practical route of retreat open to him if he is defeated. Sherman, his trusted friend, opposes the plan fiercely, as does McPherson, another of Grant’s corps commanders. General John Pemberton’s Confederate army, in and around Vicksburg, totals approximately 60,000 men. Grant has about 33,000 available for the landing. Of those, fewer than one third can be carried by the Federal transport fleet in the first wave. If Pemberton meets the Federal assault at the shore with his full strength, Grant will face catastrophe. Any attempt to reembark the landing force under fire invites wholesale slaughter. The only other possible avenue of escape open to him will be a long march through Confederate territory to one of the distant Federal bases—perhaps Corinth, or Memphis, or Baton Rouge.

A more immediate problem for Grant is moving his army forty miles from Milliken’s Bend to a base at New Carthage, on the west bank of the Mississippi twenty miles south of Vicksburg. He hopes to transfer most of the troops and materiél overland down the west bank and then strike before Pemberton realizes what is happening. General Grant orders McClernand to march, with Sherman and McPherson to follow. At this time Sherman’s men are digging another canal to the west of Vicksburg. Known as the Duckport Canal, it is another failure.

There is skirmishing at Jacksonville, Florida; Kelly’s Ford and Williamsburg, Virginia; an affair at Moscow, Tennessee; and another at Dumfries, Virginia.
#15163576
March 30, Monday

It is a day of extensive skirmishing: Basil Duke of Morgan’s cavalry at Dutton’s Hill, Kentucky; Zoar Church, Virginia; Point Pleasant, West Virginia; Cross Hollow, Arkansas; Tahlequah, Indian Territory; “The Island” in Vernon County, Missouri. In North Carolina Confederates lay siege to the city of Washington, with skirmishing at Rodman’s Point on the Pamlico River and near Deep Gully.

President Lincoln sets aside April 30 as a national fast and prayer day.
#15163761
March 31, Tuesday

Grant’s operation from Miliken’s Bend to New Carthage is well underway as he begins another attempt to capture Vicksburg. But once again the wet weather is Grant’s implacable enemy. Some of the roads are flooded, and all are deep in mud. Federal troops marching through the mire to New Carthage have to improvise bridges over many of the swollen bayous. Supply wagons bog down hopelessly. The men of McClernand’s XIII Corps clear a water route through the Bayous, but perversely, the level of the Mississippi suddenly falls, and not even shallow-draft vessels can get through the waterway.

Jacksonville, Florida, is evacuated by Federals. On the Mississippi Admiral Farragut successfully takes Hartford, Switzerland, and Albatross past the Grand Gulf batteries, moving below them after engaging. There is fighting at Eagleville and Franklin, Tennessee; Clapper’s Saw Mill on Crooked Creek; and at Cross Hollow, Arkansas. Federals carry out a four-day scout from Lexington, Tennessee, to the mouth of the Duck River.

In Washington a careworn Lincoln attends a Union meeting and also authorizes restricted commercial intercourse with states in insurrection under the regulations prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury.
#15163980
April 1863

Spring has come and major battles will soon follow. Both Federal and Confederate detachments move along the fronts, penetrating here and there, constantly looking for the strategic advantage. Vital events will soon occur along the Rappahannock near Fredericksburg, and out on the Mississippi at Vicksburg. Meanwhile, the public watches the movements of Grierson and Streight, Wheeler, Forrest, and others.

The new commander of the Army of the Potomac is expected to do something. The long series of futile adventures on the Mississippi around Vicksburg brings queries from the North. In the South discontent increases in isolated places, though spirits remain high. Confederate forces have not had too bad a winter, and have confidence in Lee and Jackson.

April 1, Wednesday

April, 1863, begins with minor skirmishes at Chalk Bluff and Clarendon, Arkansas; White River and Carroll County, Missouri; Columbia Pike, Tennessee; and near the mouth of Broad Run in Loudoun County, Virginia. An engagement occurs at Rodman’s Point, North Carolina. April 1-5 Federals scout from Linden to White River, Missouri. Federal expeditions in Tennessee from Murfreesboro to Lebanon, Carthage, and Liberty, and from Jackson to the Hatchie River lasts until April 8.

Longstreet’s command is reorganized by the Confederates to create the Department of North Carolina under Major General D.H. Hill, the Department of Richmond under Major General Arnold Elzey, and the Department of Southern Virginia under Major General S.G. French.

Major General Francis J. Herron supersedes Brigadier General John M. Schofield in command of the Federal Army of the Frontier.
#15164217
April 2, Thursday

The Southern people have grown discontented with growing shortages of food and other necessities—and by new measures the government has taken to deal with the problem. As time passes, the Federal blockade grows ever tighter, pinching off outside supplies. Many good farms cease to produce because their owners have gone to war—or have been disabled or killed on the battlefield. The Confederate Congress has exacerbated the supply situation for civilians this spring by passing a sweeping bill that taxes property, income, and profits. The most intrusive of its various measures is a tax in kind on each farm family. The government is demanding ten percent of all corn, wheat, rice, cotton, oats, sugar, salt, potatoes, buckwheat, peas, beans, bacon, and other meats for the Army. The levy has little effect on a wealthy planter’s fami, but to a backwoods couple who can barely feed their children and indigent relatives in the best of times, taking away ten percent of the food can mean real hardship. To make matters worse, last year the Confederate Army began the practice of requisitioning, or “impressing,” whatever food and other supplies the gaunt regiments need as they maneuver through the countryside. Secretary of War James A. Seddon admits that impressment is “a harsh, unequal, and odious mode of supply.” But since in the government’s view the alternative to impressment and the tax in kind would be the collapse of the Army, the two despised practices continue. Meanwhile, the Richmond administration is hardpressed to provide relief programs for the destitute home front. State governments are left mostly to their own devices, and several of them do their best to muster resources to feed and clothe their people.

But ultimately, even the most powerful public figures in the South can do little to ease the hardship caused by the war. Nor do they possess the means to stem the tide of corruption that compounds the crisis on the home front. As shortages worsen, hoarding escalates and price gouging by shopkeepers becomes common. Others sell cotton to the Union. But the worst graft is practiced by so-called commissary vultures, who use their employment in Army depots as a license to steal. These men receive the food and other goods seized from the people and brought into the depots—but never pass it on to the troops. Instead, they sell the goods surreptitiously at prices beyond the reach of all but the wealthy. Partly as a result of such corruption, the average family food bill, in the estimation of the Richmond Dispatch, has climbed from $6.65 per month at the time of secession to $68. Tolerance for such speculators among the people has expired, and nasty incidents occur in a dozen places around the South this spring. In Atlanta a pistol-carrying woman led a group of citizens into a butcher shop and asked the price of bacon. When advised that it was $1.10 per pound, the leader showed her gun, telling her companions to take all they wanted. She then led them into other shops; they quickly persuaded a number of storekeepers to sell at lower prices, but the stubborn ones among the owners were told simply to hand over the goods.

Today, it is Richmond’s turn. A group of angry women meet at a Baptist church on Oregon Hill under the leadership of one Mary Jackson, a “tall, daring, Amazonian-looking woman with a white feather erect from her hat” and a “six-shooter” in her hand. In a rousing speech, Mrs. Jackson tells the women they should demand food at fair prices or take it by force. Her listeners pour out onto the streets, their numbers swelling to several hundred, men among them, as they march to Capitol Square. There the crowd halts while Mary Jackson and others present their grievances to Governor John Letcher. The Governor listens sympathetically, but when he fails to make concessions, the mood of the group turns violent. Shouting and brandishing knives and hatchets, the mob surges into the city’s shopping district. The women smash windows and rampage into stores, wrecking the interiors, taking clothing along with food. The crowd even invades a hospital and loots 300 pounds of beef from the commissary. A company of soldiers arrives and begins pushing the mob up Main Street. As the people glare at the soldiers and the situation seems certain to end in bloodshed, President Jefferson Davis climbs atop a wagon and calls on the mob to disperse. The rioters hiss and boo in reply, and surge restlessly around Davis’ wagon. “You say you are hungry and have no money—here is all I have,” Davis cries out, slinging the contents of his pockets into the crowd. Then from his vest Davis removes his watch and holds it up for all to see. “We do not desire to injure anyone, but this lawlessness must stop. I will give you five minutes to disperse. Otherwise you will be fired upon.” The crowd grows silent. The soldiers prepare arms while Davis continues to look at his watch, then at the unhappy gathering around him. At last, by ones and twos and then by dozens, the crowd leaves the square, melting into the side streets of Richmond. The bread riot is over. Although a minor incident, it gives pause to the Confederate government and is unsettling throughout the Confederacy.

Fighting includes an engagement at Hill’s Point on Pamlico River in North Carolina. Skirmishing occurs on the Little Rock Road, Arkansas; on the Carter Creek Pike, and at Woodbury and Snow Hill, Tennessee; and an affair occurs in Jackson County, Missouri. April 2-6 there is a Union scout in Beaver Creek Swamp, Tennessee, and a reconnaissance by Federals from near Murfreesboro. A Federal expedition operates until the fourteenth to Greenville, Black Bayou, and Deer Creek, Mississippi.

Major General O.O. Howard supersedes Major General Carl Schurz in command of the Eleventh Corps of the Army of the Potomac.

President Lincoln revokes exceptions to his August, 1861, proclamation banning commercial intercourse with insurgent states. Experience has shown, he says, that the proclamation as it is cannot be enforced. Trading is restricted to that permitted by the Secretary of the Treasury.

President Davis, in response to criticism of Northern-born General Pemberton, writes, “by his judicious disposition of his forces and skilful [sic] selection of the best points of defence he has repulsed the enemy at Vicksburg, Port Hudson, on the Tallahatchie and at Deer Creek, and has thus far foiled his every attempt to get possession of the Mississippi river and the vast section of the country which it controls.”
#15164413
April 3, Friday

President Davis writes to Governor Harris Flanagin of Arkansas regarding the Mississippi Valley, “If we lost control of the Eastern side, the Western side must inevitably fall into the power of the enemy. The defense of the fortified places on the Eastern bank is therefore regarded as the defense of Arkansas quite as much as that of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.”

Governor Milledge L. Bonham of South Carolina asks the legislature for measures to halt increasing speculation and hoarding of flour, corn, bacon, and other goods.

President Lincoln tells General Hooker that he plans to visit the Army of the Potomac this weekend.

At Reading, Pennsylvania, there is an uproar over the arrest of four men alleged to be members of the pro-Southern Knights of the Golden Circle.

Operations are confined to a four-day expedition through Logan and Cabell counties, West Virginia, and a five-day scout from Carrollton to Yellville, Arkansas, both by Federals.

Union sailors and marines carry out operations in the Bayport, Florida, area until April 9. Federal riverboat crews destroy Palmyra, Tennessee, in retaliation for an attack on a Union convoy yesterday.
#15164592
April 4, Saturday

Federal forces fail to capture a strong Confederate battery in an engagement at Rodman’s Point, not far from Washington, North Carolina. Skirmishes occur at Woodbury, on the Lewisburg Pike, and on Nonconnah Creek near Memphis, Tennessee, and at Richmond, Louisiana. The latter involves forces of Grant’s command, who are moving from Milliken’s Bend toward New Carthage, Louisiana, on the west side of the Mississippi.

Lincoln and his party leave Washington by boat for Fredericksburg, on their way to the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac at Falmouth to take the measure of that army’s new commander.
#15164796
April 5, Sunday

As spring arrives and the Virginia roads dry out, the time approaches for General Hooker’s Army of the Potomac to make its move. President Lincoln confers with General Hooker and finds him supremely confident, or appearing to be so. With what Hooker calls “the finest army of the planet,” he boasts to visitors that he can go all the way to New Orleans if he wants to. The army seems to have caught his ebullient mood, and yet not everyone in the Federal camp is impressed—perhaps including President Lincoln. As he listens to Hooker repeatedly use the phrase, “when I get to Richmond,” the President must flinch to hear yet another general intent on taking a city instead of destroying an enemy army. About this time, Lincoln expresses his opinion of military strategy in Virginia. In a memorandum he writes, “our prime object is the enemies’ army in front of us, and is not with, or about, Richmond....” moreover, Lincoln is always made uncomfortable by braggadocio, and on one occasion he interrupts Hooker to amend the pet phrase by saying, “If you get to Richmond, General.” But the bumptious Hooker retorts, “Excuse me, Mr. President, but there is no if in this case. I am going straight to Richmond if I live.” Lincoln later says: “That is the most depressing thing about Hooker. It seems to me that he is overconfident. The hen is the wisest of all the animal creation, because she never cackles until after the egg is laid.”

There are skirmishes at Davis’ Mill, Tennessee, and near New Carthage, Louisiana. Two-day Federal scouts operate from La Grange, Tennessee, to Early Grove and Mount Pleasant, Mississippi, and from Grand Junction to Saulsbury, Tennessee.
#15164862
April 6, Monday

The failure of the monitors against Fort McAllister, Georgia, has only heightened Rear Admiral Du Pont’s fears. Through messages to the Navy Department, he has made clear his doubts about the wisdom of a purely naval operation against Charleston, suggesting instead a join Army-Navy attack. To Secretary Welles, Du Pont’s protests seem evidence of a lack of will—the cautions of a man who, in Welles’s words, “has a reputation to preserve instead of one to make.” Welles feels that the Fort McAllister attacks have been an unnecessary sideshow. As February and March have gone by with no action, Welles has shared his worries with Lincoln. Lincoln has remarked that Du Pont’s delays and requests for additional support remind him of General McClellan’s constant pleas for more divisions during his sluggish Peninsular Campaign. Early in March, Welles sent Du Pont three more monitors and a letter imploring him to get on with the attack. Now, Du Pont finally orders his fleet into action.

The flotilla consists of seven monitors; the Keokuk, a lightly armored experimental ironclad mounting two 11-inch guns in twin towers; and Du Pont’s flagship, the New Ironsides, a 3,500-ton ironclad steamer whose heavy guns are mounted in broadside. All told, the fleet boasts 32 guns, against 76 in the forts. The plan is to concentrate the fire on Fort Sumter, steaming past it to attack its northwest face. But no sooner has the fleet crossed the bar into Charleston Harbor than bad weather sets in, postponing the attack until tomorrow.

At Liverpool the British government seizes the Confederate vessel Alexandria which is fitting out in the British harbor.

Near New Carthage, Louisiana, on the Mississippi, skirmishing continues, and fighting breaks out at Town Creek, Alabama; Nixonton, North Carolina; and Burlington, Purgitsville, and Goings’ Ford, West Virginia. Near Green Hill, Tennessee, a Federal dash captures a few Confederates and destroys a stillhouse with forty casks of liquor.
#15165039
April 7, Tuesday

At Charleston, tidal conditions in the morning cause further delay of the naval assault; it is noon before Rear Admiral Du Pont gets his slow-moving vessels into a line. The monitor Weehawken leads the way, pushing a raft ahead of her to sweep torpedoes. To the Confederates watching from behind their batteries, the slow, stately procession must look more like a naval review than a prelude to battle. As the ships enter the main channel and head for Fort Sumter, the garrison there, in a defiant gesture, raises its flags and fire a salute to the Confederacy, while the band strikes up “Dixie.” In Charleston itself, anxious spectators line the docks to witness the battle in the harbor.

From the beginning, the Federal attack runs into difficulty. First the Weehawken tangles her anchor chain in one of the grapnels of her torpedo-sweeping raft, delaying the entire squadron for two hours. Then the New Ironsides, in the center of the line, has to drop anchor because she is steering erratically and her draft is so deep that she is in danger of grounding. Two of the monitors behind the flagship bang into her harmlessly, and Du Pont sends them on ahead. He manages to get his stalled vessel under way again, only to have her immobilized in the shallow channel. Although Du Pont is unaware of it, the New Ironsides is now sitting directly over a huge mine—a 3,000 pound charge connected by an electric wire to Fort Wagner on Morris Island. Luckily for the ship and her crew, the detonating device doesn’t work. The rest of the flotilla, meanwhile, is making little progress. The lead monitors are reluctant to pass between Forts Sumter and Moultrie for fear of entangling their propellers in the floating islands of rope that lie there, and the underwater obstructions further limit their maneuverability, holding them within the forts’ field of fire. For nearly an hour, the guns of Fort Sumter blast the ironclads, with the Confederate batteries on Sullivan’s Island and Morris Island joining in to lay down a murderous crossfire. Great spouts of water shoot up around the ships, and balls strike time and again against the turrets. The Federals’ return fire is sporadic at best. The New Ironsides, still plagued by steering problems, is too far away to be of help. Except for one parting broadside directed at Fort Moultrie, her sixteen guns remain silent throughout the attack; all the while, the Confederates pepper her, scoring 55 hits, though none do serious damage. The Keokuk is less fortunate. She was the last ship in the formation at the start; in the confusion, however, she finds herself leading—and closing fast on Fort Sumter. She fires three shots, but sustains much more damage than she causes. Within half an hour the Keokuk is transformed into a floating colander by ninety hits. With enormous difficulty, her captain maneuvers the vessel out of the action. The ironclads hit Fort Sumter 55 times, cratering her ramparts, but the fort’s fighting capacity remains unimpaired. All told, the ponderous ships get off only 139 shots during the entire engagement, compared to 2,200 from the defenders’ batteries. More than 300 shells from Fort Sumter and Moultrie and other emplacements find their marks. Casualties are light—four dead and ten wounded for the Confederates, one dead and 22 wounded for the Federals.

At about 5 pm, from his station on the New Ironsides, Du Pont signals a withdrawal. In spite of the day’s dismal failure, the admiral plans to renew the engagement in the morning. But at a captains’ conference aboard the flagship after dark, he learns the full extent of the damage to his fleet: The Weehawken has been struck 53 times, the Nahant 36 times, the Passaic 35, the Montauk 14, the Patapsco 47, the Catskill 20, the Nantucket 51. Several of the turrets cannot be rotated, and a few guns are disabled. And the Keokuk is taking on water. Du Pont excuses himself and retires to his stateroom. During the night, he makes the decision not to renew the attack. “We have met with a sad repulse,” he tells his captains. “I shall not turn it into a great disaster.” Without exception, the officers support him.

In Charleston and throughout the South, the rout of the ironclads brings great rejoicing. In Washington, there is only recriminations. Lincoln, Welles, and Fox all blame Du Pont for the failure. “After all our outlay and great preparations,” Welles will scornfully write, “Giving him all our force, and a large portion of our best officers, a fight of 30 minutes and the loss of one man satisfied the admiral.” The failure of the ironclads means that the US Army troops, who have landed on Folly Island, will have to join the Navy in attacking Charleston and its forts. No longer will the soldiers be viewed as mere occupiers, they will have to fight. But it will be some time before that happens.

Confederate Joseph Wheeler raids the Louisville & Nashville and the Nashville & Chattanooga railroads in Tennessee, April 7-11. Other fighting includes skirmishes at Liberty, Tennessee, and at Dunbar’s Plantation near Bayou Vidal, Louisiana. Federals operate from Gloucester Point to Gloucester Court House, Virginia. On the Amite River in Louisiana the Federal steamer Barataria is attacked and captured while making a reconnaissance.
#15165141
April 8, Wednesday

At Charleston, South Carolina, Rear Admiral Du Pont is to suffer one more humiliation. Outside Charleston Harbor, about 1,300 yards off Morris Island, the Keokuk sinks in the shallow waters, her smokestacks visible even at high tide.

McClernand’s men continue operations below Milliken’s Bend around New Carthage on the Mississippi. In addition to preparing roads and bringing in supplies, skirmishing is frequent, including a brief fight at James’ Plantation. Skirmishing occurs on the Millwood Road near Winchester, Virginia, and at St. Francis County, Arkansas.

President Lincoln reviews portions of Hooker’s army at Falmouth, across the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg.
#15165259
April 9, Thursday

A day of small operations with skirmishes at Sedalia, Missouri; White River, Arkansas; Franklin, and near the Obion River, Tennessee; Berwick Bay, Louisiana; Gloucester Point, Virginia; and Blount’s Mills, North Carolina.

Major General Nathaniel Banks has launched a campaign in Louisiana to secure the west bank of the Mississippi and thus isolate the Confederate bastion of Port Hudson on the east bank. Banks hopes to cut off enemy supplies from this fertile region and destroy the 4,000-man force of Major General Richard Taylor, encamped on Bayou Teche west of New Orleans. Banks’s plan is to catch the Confederates in a pincer movement. While 10,000 Federals led by Brigadier Generals William Emory and Godfrey Weitzel move up the Teche, Brigadier General Cuvier Grover is to lead 5,000 men up the Atchafalaya River on a roughly parallel route, land at a place called Indian Bend, and hit the Confederates from the rear. Two divisions from the XIX Corps cross Berwick Bay from Brashear City (present day Morgan City, Louisiana) to the west side at Berwick.
#15165587
April 10, Friday

“Let fields be devoted exclusively to the production of corn, oats, beans, peas, potatoes, and other fodder for man and beast; let corn be sown broadcast for fodder ... and let all your efforts be directed to the prompt supply of these articles in the districts where our armies are operating;” writes President Davis, concurring with congressional opposition to planting of cotton and tobacco. In a proclamation, the Confederate President says, “Alone, unaided, we have met and overthrown the most formidable combination of naval and military armaments that the lust of conquest ever gathered together for the subjugation of a free people.... We must not forget, however, that the war is not yet ended, and that we are still confronted by powerful armies and threatened by numerous fleets; and that the Government which controls these fleets and armies is driven to the most desperate efforts to effect the unholy purposes in which it has thus far been defeated.”

Meanwhile, President Lincoln reviews more troops at Falmouth, Virginia, and leaves Aquia Creek for Washington in the afternoon. Before he leaves, he sends for General Hooker and General Darius Couch, now second in command of the Army of the Potomac. The President distills his parting advice into a single, prophetic sentence: “Gentlemen, in your next fight, put in all your men.”

Confederates under Earl Van Dorn attack Federals at Franklin, Tennessee, in a sharp engagement, but a counterattack forces the Confederates to withdraw. Skirmishing on Folly Island, South Carolina; an expedition from Humboldt to Cottonwood, Kansas; and a two-day Federal scout from La Grange, Tennessee, into Mississippi, complete the day’s activities.
#15165804
April 11, Saturday

Scouts and skirmishes fill the day with action at Williamsburg, and on the South Quay Road near the Blackwater in Virginia; near Pattersonville, Louisiana; La Grange to Saulsburg, Tennessee; Courtney’s Plantation, Mississippi; Webber’s Falls, Indian Territory; and near Squirrel Creek Crossing, Colorado Territory. In West Virginia from this day to the eighteenth Federals scout from Beverly to Franklin. In Utah Territory there is an expedition by Federals against the Amerinds, April 11-20 from Camp Douglas to the Spanish Fork Canyon.

A half-dozen Federal blockaders manage to force the blockade runner Stonewall Jackson ashore off Charleston, South Carolina.

Out from Nashville Colonel A.D. Streight moves with a force of 1,700 Federal cavalry on a raid to operate deep into Georgia.

Although General Pemberton, in command of the Confederate forces defending Vicksburg, knows something is up, he is still not sure where General Grant is headed. Today he notifies his superiors that Grant seems to have given up his designs on Vicksburg and has started north. He has even detached some troops for service elsewhere.

General Banks begins his advance on the west side of the Mississippi River opposite Port Hudson in earnest. General Taylor is well aware of Banks' advance because of successful scouting by his cavalry under Brigadier General Thomas Green. Green shadows Banks' army and reports back to Taylor every detail of the maneuvers of the Union army.

President Lincoln, just returned from the camps of Hooker’s Army of the Potomac, confers with Cabinet members and General Halleck on military problems.
#15165991
April 12, Sunday

As fine spring weather dries the roads in Virginia, there is ever-increasing pressure on General Hooker to resume the offensive. Clearly, he will have to make his move this month. The President is now desperate for a victory to revive the Union’s sagging morale. And with the Confederate forces at Fredericksburg depleted by the absence of Longstreet’s two divisions—sent today to Suffolk, south of the James, to begin a siege of what will turn out to be nearly a month—the Army of the Potomac enjoys an enormous numerical advantage over the Army of Northern Virginia—roughly 135,000 to 60,000. But the advantage cannot last. Longstreet might return at any time, and worse yet, 27,000 Federal troops whose enlistments will expire in May cannot be counted on to reenlist.

A renewal of the attack at Fredericksburg is out of the question. In the months that have passed since the ghastly events of December 13, the Confederates have greatly improved their defenses there. Hooker feels sure that his army has been restored to effectiveness, but he doesn’t dare test the massed troops and bristling guns on Marye’s Heights. The Federals will have to flank the enemy position—not a simple task. On the left, downstream, the river widens steadily, and it is swollen by the spring runoff, making a successful crossing doubtful. The prospects aren’t much better to Hooker’s immediate right. Banks’ Ford, five miles northwest of the town, and United States Ford, seven miles beyond that, are heavily guarded by the Confederates. But farther up, about the confluence of the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers, both streams can be crossed readily with little likelihood of serious resistance.

Today, President Lincoln receives a letter from Hooker informing him that General George Stoneman will launch the campaign with 10,000 horsemen of his recently created cavalry corps. They are to cross the Rappahannock at least twenty miles upstream, then ford the Rapidan and get behind the Army of Northern Virginia, severing its lines of communication. Hooker persists in the curious notion that Robert E. Lee and his army will be demoralized by the first show of force. “I am apprehensive that he will retire from before me the moment I should succeed in crossing the river,” Hooker writes the President, “and thus escape being seriously crippled.” If that happens, Hooker hopes that the cavalry will “hold him and check his retreat until I can fall on his rear.” The loquacious Hooker is oddly reticent about exactly how the main body of his army will attack. He tells his corps commanders nothing, and all he says to the President is that, while the cavalrymen are moving, “I shall threaten the passage of the river at various points, and after they have passed well to the enemy’s rear, shall endeavor to effect the crossing.”

Along the west bank of the Mississippi, General Banks sends a third division, under Brigadier General Cuvier Grover, up the Atchafalaya River to land in the rear of Franklin, intending to intercept a Confederate retreat from Fort Bisland or turn the enemy’s position. General Taylor sends some of Green’s cavalry to the front to ascertain the Federals’ strength and slow their advance. He also sends troops under Brigadier General Alfred Mouton to impede the advance of Grover’s division. Late in the day, Union troops of Brigadier General William H. Emory’s division arrive and form a battle line outside Fort Bisland’s defenses. An artillery barrage ensues from both sides until dark when the Federal troops fall back to camp for the night.

Skirmishing and reconnaissances occur at Stewartsborough, Tennessee; from Gloucester Point to the vicinity of Hickory Forks, Virginia; Edenton, Providence Church, and Somerton Roads, Virginia, and from Winchester up the Cedar Creek Valley to Virginia. In the Far West a Federal expedition operates against marauding Amerinds to the twenty-fourth from Camp Babbitt to Keysville, California.
#15166147
April 13, Monday

In Virginia, General Stoneman sets out this morning. While most of his 10,000 Federal cavalry proceed up the Rappahannock at a leisurely pace, he sends ahead a brigade under Colonel Benjamin “Grimes” Davis. Davis’ men are to cross at Sulphur Springs, more than thirty miles northwest of Fredericksburg, and then double back down the Rappahannock to drive off the Confederate pickets at Freeman’s and Beverly Fords. This would clear the way for the rest of the cavalry to cross. Davis and his brigade successfully cross the Rappahannock and beat back Confederate detachments guarding the fords. But the rest of Stoneman’s troopers are slow to arrive—and then the skies open on the hapless horsemen. As the rain falls, the Rappahannock rises alarmingly. Davis is forced to hasten back across the river to avoid having his small force trapped on the Confederate side. As it is, several men and horses are drowned while trying to negotiate the raging stream. Stoneman’s main body of cavalry, prevented now from crossing anywhere, set up camp a dozen miles north of the Rappahannock to await better weather.

President Lincoln orders Admiral Du Pont to hold his position inside the Charleston Harbor bar. The President has expressed anxiety over the failure of the Federal ironclads in their operations against the South Carolina port.

In the Department of the Ohio, General Burnside orders the death penalty for anyone guilty of aiding the Confederates and also orders deportation of Southern sympathizers to Confederate lines.

In Louisiana at about 9 am, Union forces again advance on Fort Bisland. General Banks has three brigades under in position south of the Bayou Teche. The brigades are deployed with Godfrey Weitzel on the left, Halbert E. Paine on the right (anchored on Bayou Teche) with Timothy Ingraham in support. Opposing the Union forces south of the Teche is the “Arizona Brigade” commanded by Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley. North of Bayou Teche is the Union brigade of Oliver P. Gooding who faces off against Mouton’s Confederate brigade. Combat doesn’t begin until after 11:00 am and continues until dusk. In addition to Confederate forces in the earthworks, the gunboat Diana, which had been captured and is now in Confederate hands, shells the Union troops. US gunboats join the fray in late afternoon. By early evening, fire has halted.

Meanwhile, in the morning Grover’s division has gone up the Atchafalaya and lands in the vicinity of Franklin, scattering Confederate troops attempting to stop them from disembarking. Come night Grover orders the division to cross Bayou Teche and prepare for an attack towards Franklin, Louisiana, at dawn. However, Taylor learns that Grover is now in a position to cut off a Confederate retreat. Taylor begins evacuating supplies, men, and weapons, leaving a small force to slow any enemy movement.

Fighting flares in widely separated areas: at Porter’s and McWilliams’ plantations at Indian Bend, Louisiana; Chapel Hill, Tennessee; Elk Run and Snicker’s Ferry, Virginia. Federals carry out expeditions to the twenty-first from New Berne to Swift Creek Village, North Carolina.
#15166369
April 14, Tuesday

General Banks finds Fort Bisland, Louisiana, on Bayou Teche, abandoned by the Confederates and marches his troops in. The Confederates burn two of their own gunboats and the former Federal gunboat Queen of the West, veteran of so many engagements, is destroyed by Federal naval fire. Meanwhile General Taylor and his men are at Nerson’s Woods, around a mile and a half above Franklin. As General Grover’s lead brigade marches out a few miles, it finds Taylor’s men on its right and skirmishing begins. The fighting becomes intense; the Confederates attack, forcing the Federal soldiers to fall back. The gunboat Diana arrives and anchors the Confederate right flank on the Teche. Still, Grover’s men outnumber the Confederates; when he pauses to deploy his full force, Taylor withdraws rather than risk a pitched battle against superior numbers. Grover’s men have taken the strategic position they sought. Although Taylor has evaded Banks, the Teche is now in Federal hands, along with huge quantities of enemy supplies. More important, the Port Hudson garrison can no longer count on help from across the Mississippi.

Also in Louisiana there is a skirmish at Jeanerette. In Virginia, not far from Suffolk, an engagement is fought at the mouth of West Branch near the Norfleet House on the Nansemond River.

Again President Lincoln impresses upon his officers the need for remaining before Charleston.
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April 15, Wednesday

General Hooker, certain his orders are being carried out, writes President Lincoln that, regardless of the storm, General Stoneman’s troopers have crossed the river. But come evening, Hooker is forced to revise his optimistic report, informing the President that only one division has crossed. In fact, no Federal cavalrymen are south of the Rappahannock. Despite the false reports, Lincoln sizes up the situation at once; his ability to detect a fiasco in the making is by now finely tuned. Late this day he writes to Hooker: “General S. is not moving rapidly enough to make the expedition come to anything. He has now been out three days, two of which were unusually fair weather, and all three without hindrance from the enemy, and yet he is not 25 miles from where he started. I greatly fear it is another failure already.” It is. The rain continues to fall, and the river will remain impassable for the better part of two weeks. Not only the cavalry, but the entire army, poised for movement and battle, will be required to sit still in the mud.

Grant’s forces continue to move from Milliken’s Bend on the Mississippi to below Vicksburg, skirmishing near Dunbar’s Plantation on Bayou Vidal, Louisiana.

Confederate troops withdraw from their siege of Washington, North Carolina, begun on March 30, on the approach of a Federal relieving force. For the second day troops are engaged near the Norfleet House, Virginia, not far from Suffolk. A skirmish occurs at Piketon, Kentucky; and an expedition operates from La Grange to Saulsbury, Tennessee. Banks’ Federals occupy Franklin, Louisiana. From this day to May 2, Federals carry out an expedition from Corinth, Mississippi, to Courtland, Alabama.

CSS Alabama takes two US whalers off the island of Fernando de Noronha, Brazil.
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