The American Civil War, day by day - Page 63 - Politics | PoFo

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April 16, Thursday

For General Grant’s troops, the roads remain as wet as ever. The transfer of the army down the west bank of the Mississippi is progressing at a snail’s pace. If Grant hopes to launch his offensive quickly, at least some of the troops and the bulk of the supplies will have to be ferried down the Mississippi past the dangerous Vicksburg batteries. It falls to Admiral Porter’s gunboats to escort the first shipment past the guns to New Carthage, and Porter chooses this night for the run. Darkness cloaks the river as Grant, accompanied by his visiting wife and two sons, watches tensely from his headquarters steamer, anchored upstream out of range of the Confederate batteries. Sherman awaits the outcome aboard a boat below the town. The twelve vessels of the convoy start quietly downstream, their exhausts vented into the paddle-wheel housings to muffle the noise. Porter has even ordered his crews to leave ashore all pets, along with the poultry carried by some boats’ crews to provide fresh food. The captains of the convoy are told to steer a little off to one side of the vessel ahead, so that if a craft is hit, the vessel behind it can pass without slowing down. To afford some protections from shot and shell, many crews have stacked cotton and hay bales, grain sacks and logs on deck; others have lashed coal barges to the sides of their vessels. Belowdecks, teams of men stand ready to plug any shell holes below the waterline.

This night many of the people of Vicksburg, as well as General Pemberton’s senior officers, are attending a grand ball. Porter, made aware of the gala event by informants, hopes that the party will so preoccupy the enemy that they won’t notice the passage of his little fleet. But the Confederate pickets, patrolling the river in skiffs, are alert. They spot the spectral shadows in the Mississippi almost immediately and sound the alarm. The ball comes to a hasty end and soldiers hurry to their posts. From atop the bluffs the batteries open up. In an act of great courage, some of the Confederate pickets row their skiffs across the river under fire from both sides, land in Union-held De Soto, and set ablaze several buildings to light up the night. Meanwhile, the defenders of Vicksburg are igniting barrels of pitch on the east bank. Suddenly the whole river is illuminated and the Federal vessels are clearly visible in midstream. The people in the streets of the town are running and gesticulating as if all are mad. The men at the batteries load and fire and yell as if every shot sinks a steamboat. The sky is black, lit only by sparks from the burning houses. Down on the river it is a sheet of flame. One of the steamers and a few of the barges catch fire and are burning up, the men escaping in lifeboats and by swimming to the western shore. The passage of the fleet is agonizingly slow: From first to last it takes two and a half hours. But when it is over, only those few vessels that caught fire have been lost. Grant’s plan is successfully launched. Pemberton has been effectively disabused of the notion that the Federals are moving upriver, but he is still uncertain where the next blow will fall.

At New Carthage, Sherman greets each boat as it arrives. When Porter’s flagship appears, Sherman goes aboard and says cheerfully to the admiral, “You are more at home here than you were in the ditches grounding on willow trees.” After the fleet arrives at New Carthage, Sherman returns to Milliken’s Bend, where his XV Corps remains on watch, ready to strike at Vicksburg’s upriver defenses if Pemberton leaves them unguarded. Grant’s other two corps are now assembling at New Carthage to prepare for the landing.

Other fighting includes a skirmish at Newtown, Louisiana; an affair on the Pamunkey River near West Point, Virginia; and skirmishes at Eagleville, Tennessee, and Paris, Kentucky. Action continues in the New Berne area of North Carolina, with affairs at Hill’s and Rodman’s Points and a Federal expedition from New Berne toward Kinston, April 16-21.

President Davis approves acts of the Confederate Congress to allow minors to hold army commissions and to prevent absence of soldiers and officers without leave.
April 17, Friday

All of General Grant’s plans depend on keeping General Pemberton confused. For a landing site on the east bank, Grant has chosen Grand Gulf, twenty miles downriver from New Carthage. Grand Gulf offers plenty of dry ground for the troops, and from there they can march to the northwest and flank Vicksburg. But Grant is determined to mask his intentions until it is too late for Pemberton to react effectively. The obvious course is to mount a series of diversionary actions. With masterful guile, Grant sends a division off to distract the Confederates at Greenville, on the east bank of the Mississippi 100 miles north of Vicksburg. He also dispatches a division of McPherson’s corps from Lake Providence to join Sherman at Young’s Point, northwest of Vicksburg. By far the most important of these feints is a large cavalry raid south from La Grange, Tennessee, through central Mississippi. The operation will go down in history simply as Grierson’s Raid.

Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson may be the Union Army’s most improbable cavalry leader. He has hated horses since the age of eight, when he was kicked and badly hurt by a pony, and he objected vigorously when he was assigned to the 6th Illinois Cavalry in 1861. In fact, he protested to none other than General Halleck, who brushed him off with the comment that he looked “active and wiry enough” to become a cavalryman. What is more, Grierson is something of a novice in military matters; by now he has only eighteen months of service behind him. He is really a musician—a composer, arranger, pianist, flutist, drummer, and guitarist who was making an uncertain living as a music teacher when the war began. On patrols, he entertains himself and those of his men within earshot by strumming away on a jew’s-harp as they ride along. For all his unlikely background, Grierson has quickly earned a reputation as a superb cavalry leader—“the best cavalry officer I have yet had,” Sherman told Grant last December. Impressed, the commanding general has picked Grierson to lead this critical raid through the enemy heartland. He will be riding at the head of 1,700 Iowa and Illinois cavalrymen, accompanied by a battery of horse artillery.

Grierson’s orders are of the most general sort. He is to ride south from La Grange into Mississippi, following a route between the state’s two north-south railroads: the Mississippi Central and the Mobile & Ohio. En route, he is to cut both of those lines and sever the even more important Southern Mississippi Railroad, which runs from Vicksburg through Jackson and on east, tying together the eastern and western halves of the Confederacy. Grierson has also been instructed to disrupt enemy communications elsewhere, destroy any supplies he might come upon, and make as much mischief as possible while deceiving the Confederates about the actual size and identity of his force. Presumably, he will return to La Grange, probably by way of Alabama. The troops who ride out of La Grange behind Benjamin Grierson this morning know only that they are off on a lengthy mission, for they have been ordered to draw five day’s rations. They welcome this break from their usual routine.

Always considered of secondary importance by both Washington and Richmond, since the Battle of Prairie Grove last December ended permanent Confederate control, northwestern Arkansas and the Indian Territory north of the Arkansas River has received even less attention as each side has diverted men and matériel to the great battlefields farther east. But the killing and destruction hasn’t stopped. Instead, the war along the Arkansas-Indian Territory border has evolved into a series of bitter raids and counterraids, terrorizing and brutalizing the area’s inhabitants. The Federal victory at Prairie Grove has touched off a wave of pro-Union sentiment among the people of northwest Arkansas. Hundreds of men who hid from General Hindman’s conscription agents have emerged from the hills. Federal recruiters enlist these so-called Mountain Feds in two Arkansas regiments that will fight for the Union. Replaced as Confederate commander of the Trans-Mississippi District, General Holmes has hung on as the head of the Arkansas District. Brigadier General William L. Cabell has been assigned the thankless task of rebuilding Confederate strength in northwestern Arkansas. Thomas Hindman has been transferred to the East, and Sterling Price has been ordered back to Arkansas to take command of Hindman’s division. Now dashing, handsome Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke leads his Confederate raiders out of Arkansas into southeastern Missouri on a raid that will last until May 2, but end in failure.

To the east, Colonel Abel D. Streight’s raiders move south from Nashville into Alabama. Other Union expeditions operate April 17-19 from New Berne to Washington, North Carolina, assisting in raising the siege of Washington; from Winchester to Sump’s Tannery, Virginia, April 17-18; and April 17-21 from St. Martinsville to Breaux Bridge and Opelousas, Louisiana. There is general skirmishing on the lines around Suffolk, Virginia; fighting on the Amite River and at Bayou Vermillion, Louisiana; at Core Creek, North Carolina; on White River, Missouri; and at Lundy’s Lane, Cherokee Station, Great Bear Creek, and Barton’s Station, Alabama.
April 18, Saturday

Grierson’s raiders meet their first minor opposition between Ripley and New Albany, Mississippi, as skirmishing breaks out on the line of march. A Confederate attack on Fayetteville, Arkansas, is repulsed by the Union garrison. Other fighting includes an affair at Sabine Pass, Texas; a skirmish at Hartsville, Tennessee; and an affair near Johnstown, Harrison County, West Virginia. Federals destroy Confederate salt works near New Iberia, Louisiana. Federals scout through Shannon County, Missouri, and for four days from Salem to Sinking Creek, Current River, and Big Creek, Missouri.

The Confederate Congress authorizes a volunteer navy whereby qualified persons can procure and fit out vessels for cruising against the enemy, the main compensation to be prize money. The idea will never go into operation, however.
April 19, Sunday

President Lincoln, General Halleck, and Secretary of War Stanton take a quick one-day trip to Aquia Creek on army matters; the venture is carried out almost secretly.

As Grierson’s Federal cavalry move deeper into Mississippi, skirmishing continues, this time at Pontotoc. Other skirmishing occurs at Big Swift Creek, North Carolina; at Battery Huger, Hill’s Point, near Suffolk, Virginia; Celina and Creelsborough, Kentucky; Dickson Station, Alabama; and Trenton, Tennessee. Today and tomorrow there is a Federal scout near Neosho, Missouri.
April 20, Monday

So far, Colonel Grierson’s troopers have only brushed against small detachments of Confederate soldiers and militiamen. The raiders have fired a few rounds and taken a few prisoners, most of whom are later paroled. More significantly, Grierson’s men have stirred up the Confederate cavalry. The cavalry commander in northeastern Mississippi, a 29-year-old lieutenant colonel named Clark R. Barteau, has only about 500 men, but he has plenty of gumption, and he moves swiftly to intercept Grierson’s force. Grierson, though, is a wily adversary. Today he weeds out all of the ailing and injured troopers. This group of more than 150 men—dubbed the Quinine Brigade by their comrades—then start back north, taking care as they go to obliterate a stretch of the southbound hoofprints of the main force. Barteau, in hot pursuit of the raiders, comes across the northbound tracks and slows down. By the time he figures out that the Federals are playing games, he is ten hours behind Grierson.

A proclamation by President Lincoln declares that the state of West Virginia, having the approval of Congress, will officially join the union on June 20.

In Louisiana Federal forces occupy Opelousas and Washington and the Union navy squadron captures Butte-à-la-Rose. Marmaduke’s Confederate raiders fight a skirmish at Patterson, Missouri, and an affair occurs at Bloomfield, Missouri. In North Carolina, skirmishing is at Sandy Ridge; and in Virginia a Federal reconnaissance operates from Winchester toward Wardensville and Strasburg. In West Virginia Confederate cavalry under John D. Imboden operate until May 14, with several skirmishes. A strong Federal expedition patrols from Murfreesboro to McMinnville, Tennessee, through to the 30th. In the Suffolk, Virginia, area Federal troops and the Navy capture a strong position at Hill’s Point on the Nansemond River.
April 21, Tuesday

Colonel Grierson orders the 2nd Iowa Cavalry under Colonel Edward Hatch to split off and move toward the Confederate base at Columbus, Mississippi, a day’s ride to the east; from there Hatch is to head back to La Grange, 175 miles to the north. Hatch’s diversion is intended to rouse the countryside and make it appear once again that the entire force is riding homeward. Colonel Barteau, now only three hours behind Grierson, swallows the bait and goes after Hatch, He soon catches up with him, and a brisk skirmish ensues. Hatch outnumbers Barteau by 200 men, but he chooses a fighting retreat. He believes, he will say later, that “it was important to divert the enemy’s cavalry from Colonel Grierson.” In this he is completely successful. As Hatch moves northward, harried by Barteau, Grierson is proceeding unhampered toward the vital Southern Mississippi Railroad.

Ranging out ahead of the brigade is a contingent of scouts who engage in the riskiest of deceptions: They dress as Confederate irregulars, which make them subject to execution as spies if they are captured. These men, known to their fellow cavalrymen as the Butternut Guerrillas, check out all towns before the main Federal force arrives, and attempt to secure vital bridges before they can be destroyed. The scouts also keep a sharp eye out for food and forage—it is now necessary for them to live off the land.

Confederates under Brigadier General William E. Jones begin a raid on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in West Virginia, which lasts until May 21, resulting in considerable minor fighting. A Federal expedition operates April 21 to May 2 from Lake Spring, Missouri, to Chalk Bluff, Arkansas. A skirmish occurs at Palo Alto, Mississippi, and a Federal expedition moves from Opelousas to Barre’s Landing, Louisiana.
April 22, Wednesday

As pleased as Sherman is with the successful passage of Vicksburg a week earlier, he is even more pleased when another Federal flotilla of six transports and twelve barges attempt to pass the Vicksburg batteries. One transport and six barges are sunk, but the remainder carry their precious supplies to Grant’s men below the city—and on board the transport that was sunk are three newspaper reporters. Sherman has nursed a black hatred of the press since the early days of the war, when he was called crazy in print. His vendetta is renowned in the Army of the Tennessee. Now three “dirty newspaper scribblers,” as Sherman terms reporters, have apparently been lost when the transport goes down. He can scarcely contain himself. He will most likely be disappointed when he learns that the correspondents haven’t drowned after all, but have merely been captured. One of them is quickly released; the other two will be held prisoner for nineteen months before they escape and make their way back to the North.

Colonel Grierson once again detaches a unit to sow confusion off to one side of his route. This time he sends Company B of the 7th Illinois Cavalry, 35 men under Captain Henry C. Forbes, to the town of Macon on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad to cut the telegraph lines there.

Marmaduke and his Confederates fight a skirmish at Fredericktown, Missouri. Other fighting includes skirmishing at the Bayou Boeuf Road near Washington, Louisiana; Hartsville, Tennessee; Rock Cut near Tuscumbia, Alabama; Point Pleasant, West Virginia; and Fisher’s Hill, Virginia. A three-day Federal expedition operates from Belle Plain to Port Conway and Port Royal in Virginia.

President Davis, concerned about Vicksburg, advises Pemberton to float fire rafts down the Mississippi when the Federals try to pass, or to anchor them in the river on dark nights.
Doug64 wrote:April 22, Wednesday

As pleased as Sherman is with the successful passage of Vicksburg a week earlier, he is even more pleased when another Federal flotilla of six transports and twelve barges attempt to pass the Vicksburg batteries. One transport and six barges are sunk, but the remainder carry their precious supplies to Grant’s men below the city—and on board the transport that was sunk are three newspaper reporters. Sherman has nursed a black hatred of the press since the early days of the war, when he was called crazy in print. His vendetta is renowned in the Army of the Tennessee. Now three “dirty newspaper scribblers,” as Sherman terms reporters, have apparently been lost when the transport goes down. He can scarcely contain himself. He will most likely be disappointed when he learns that the correspondents haven’t drowned after all, but have merely been captured. One of them is quickly released; the other two will be held prisoner for nineteen months before they escape and make their way back to the North.

:lol: :lol: :lol:

I'm liking Sherman already.... :)
@Potemkin, yeah, there are good reasons Sherman never went into politics. :D
Doug64 wrote:@Potemkin, yeah, there are good reasons Sherman never went into politics. :D

Diplomacy was never his strong suit, no. Lol. :)
April 23, Thursday

Minor skirmishes occur at Independence, Missouri; Chuckatuck near Suffolk, Virginia; on the Shelbyville Pike, Tennessee; and at Dickson Station, Tuscumbia, Florence, and Leighton, Alabama.

Reportedly, a medium conducts a séance at the White House. After President Lincoln leaves, the “spirits” are said to have pinched Secretary of War Stanton’s nose and tweaked the beard of Secretary of the Navy Welles.

Lincoln informs a sensitive General Rosecrans at Murfreesboro that he has not heard any complaints about the general.

Four vessels evade the blockade and reach Wilmington, North Carolina, with valuable cargoes.
Doug64 wrote:Reportedly, a medium conducts a séance at the White House. After President Lincoln leaves, the “spirits” are said to have pinched Secretary of War Stanton’s nose and tweaked the beard of Secretary of the Navy Welles.

Those wacky 19th century séances! :excited:

Seriously though, the fad for Spiritualism during the mid- to late-19th century was one of the odder cultural phenomena of that period. The fact that it coincided with (by our standards) fanatically strict Christian faith just makes it even odder. It's almost as though they were in the process of losing their faith in an afterlife, and needed tangible reassurances.... :eh:
@Potemkin Yup, every era has its weird mass delusions, and the belief that the world is filled with people that can summon the dead on command was definitely one of the Victorians’. I wonder what future eras will say our delusions are?
April 24, Friday

While Captain Forbes is raising alarms in and around Macon, Colonel Grierson’s troopers, weary and dusty but still enjoying themselves thoroughly, trot into the town of Newton Station. The raiders are now about 200 miles deep in Confederate country and about 100 miles directly east of Vicksburg, and they have reached the Southern Mississippi Railroad. The Butternut Guerrillas have discovered that two trains, one westbound and one eastbound, are due in at any moment. The first of them, a freight train headed west, arrives at almost exactly the same time as Grierson’s lead battalion. When the train puffs noisily onto a siding to let the second train pass, the cavalrymen swarm all over it. They can scarcely gain a more welcome prize—ordnance and commissary supplies to Vicksburg. Minutes later, the eastbound locomotive, pulling one passenger car and twelve freight cars, enters the station. This train also carries munitions (presumably needed elsewhere more than Vicksburg, which the train has just left) along with the household goods of two families fleeing the threatened river port. By the time Grierson arrives on the scene with the rest of his force, the jubilant troopers of the lead battalion are already celebrating their exploit with a confiscated barrel of whiskey. Grierson quickly orders them back to work destroying the military supplies, burning bridges, cutting down telegraph poles, and ripping up track. A building full of Confederate uniforms and small arms is set afire, and the two locomotives are blown up. At 2 pm, Grierson’s cavalrymen reassemble in the streets of Newton Station and gallop westward out of town.

General Pemberton is in Jackson, only fifty miles away. By now he knows that Grant has moved downriver and is posing some sort of threat. But Pemberton’s attention is fixed on Benjamin Grierson. When word arrives of Grierson’s presence at Newton Station, Pemberton reacts with everything he has. He sends two infantry regiments and a battery of artillery out from Jackson to block the raiders from the west. From the northern part of the state, he dispatches forces of cavalry and light artillery to block any movement by Grierson back toward Tennessee. He orders General Franklin Gardner at Port Hudson to send all his “disposable cavalry” into southeastern Louisiana to cut off any escape in that direction. Pemberton already has another force of men in Meridian, to the east, assigned to hunt Grierson. Pemberton is responding to the raid precisely as Grant had hoped. Grierson will later estimate that at one point the Confederates have 20,000 men in the field hunting his raiders. And the scheduled Federal landing on the east bank of the Mississippi is just a few days away.

Meanwhile, Colonel Hatch’s marauding Iowans and Captain Forbes’s Company B are still on the loose, and just as the Confederates are trying to decide where Grierson will strike next, Forbes reenters the picture. Seeking to rejoin Grierson, he arrives at Newton Station fifteen hours behind his commander and—believing a false report that Grierson had circulated before he left—heads east to catch up with the main body. In fact, Grierson has ridden westward.

April 24 to May 27 Union forces carry out operations against the Amerinds in Owen’s River and adjacent valleys of California.

Federal raiders under General Grenville Dodge captures Tuscumbia, Alabama; Marmaduke’s Confederates fight at Mill or Middle Creek Bridges, Missouri. There is a skirmish on Edenton Road near Suffolk, Virginia; a Federal expedition to Lake Saint Joseph, Louisiana; and a skirmish in Gilmer County, West Virginia.

In the Gulf of Mexico, USS De Soto captures four blockade runners.

The Congress of the Confederate States levies a comprehensive “tax in kind” of one tenth of all produce of the land for the year 1863.
April 25, Saturday

Captain Forbes rides boldly into the town of Enterprise, Mississippi, southeast of Newton Station, having been told there are no Confederates there. In fact, the town is full of them. The resourceful Forbes instantly raises a white handkerchief, advances on the stockade that is the Confederate headquarters, and in Grierson’s name demands the town’s surrender. The surprised Confederates ask for an hour to think it over. Forbes and his company fall back until they are safely out of sight, then turn and flee. “We never knew officially what the Confederates’ reply was,” Captain Forbes will later write, “as for reasons best known to them they failed to make it reach us. Perhaps it was lack of speed. We fell back, very cheerfully, four miles, and fed, and resumed our retreat, which was diligently continued all night.” The Confederates quickly send word to General Pemberton that Grierson’s men have been seen east of Newton Station.

Colonel Grierson, meanwhile, presses westward, having decided that instead of returning to La Grange, he will be most useful in support of General Grant’s proposed landing at Grand Gulf.

In Virginia, the weather finally clears. Brisk winds dry the mud, and cloudless skies promise an end to the rainy spell. At this point, General Hooker decides to adopt a bold new strategy. The Federal cavalry will go ahead with its mission to get behind General Lee and cut his supply lines. But instead of waiting for General Stoneman’s troopers to complete their mission, Hooker will simultaneously launch his infantry on a daring strategic envelopment. This campaign, unlike the recent brutal contest at Fredericksburg, will be a chess game for generals.

Hooker plans to move a third of his army—the V, XI, and XII Corps—up the Rappahannock, bypassing the heavily defended Banks’ and United States Fords and crossing at Kelly’s Ford, twenty miles upstream from Fredericksburg. Oliver Howard’s XI Corps and Henry Slocum’s XII Corps will then head south and cross the Rapidan at Germana Ford. George Meade’s V Corps will double back toward Fredericksburg, crossing the Rapidan at Ely’s Ford and driving the Confederates from the Banks’ and United States Fords. This will open the way for Darius Couch’s II Corps to cross the Rappahannock. Couch is to await orders at the river, but the other three corps—Meade’s, Slocum’s, and Howard’s—are to reunite ten miles west of Fredericksburg, at a rural crossroads marked by a large red-brick, white-columned mansion called Chancellor House. From it the country crossroads derives its presumptuous name—Chancellorsville. To distract the Confederates from the threat to their left flank, Hooker plans a series of deceptions. General John Sedgwick will lead his own VI Corps and General John Reynold’s I Corps across the Rappahannock below Fredericksburg to feign a major attack on Stonewall Jackson’s troops on the Confederate right. To confuse Robert E. Lee’s scouts even further, two other Federal units—Daniel Sickles’ III Corps and a II Corps division under John Gibbon—will remain temporarily in their camps on Stafford Heights and at Falmouth, both clearly visible to Confederate pickets.

Skirmishing occurs near Hard Times Landing as Grant’s forces continue to push south after bypassing Vicksburg.

Skirmishes break out near Fort Bowie, Arizona Territory; Greenland Gap, West Virginia; and at Webber’s Falls, Indian Territory.

Major General Dabney H. Maury assumes command of the Confederate Department of East Tennessee, a difficult assignment in view of the prevailing pro-Union sentiment.

The British Parliament loudly debates the seizure of British vessels by American cruisers on blockade duty.
April 26, Sunday

As he makes for General Grant’s landing site, Colonel Grierson starts to put the torch to bridges behind him to cut off Confederate pursuit, and Captain Forbes’s Company B is consequently in serious danger of being trapped. Forbes is now aware of Grierson’s intention and is struggling desperately to catch up. Forbes chooses three volunteers—one of them his brother Stephen, a sergeant—to ride ahead on the company’s freshest horses. He doesn’t expect so see any of them again. This night, as the three riders gallop through the darkness, they see lights ahead, then hear a shout in an unmistakably Northern accent: “Halt! Who goes there?” The three men spur their horses. “Company B!” they cry. There is a moment of astonished silence, then a cheer runs down the column. Sergeant Forbes pulls up next the Colonel Grierson, grinning. “Captain Forbes presents his compliments,” he says, “and begs to be allowed to burn his bridges for himself.”

The increased springtime fighting continues. Marmaduke’s busy Confederates unsuccessfully attack Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and also skirmish near Jackson, Missouri. Streight launches the main part of his Federal raid from Tuscumbia, Alabama, and heads toward Rome, Georgia. Confederate raiders under W.E. “Grumble” Jones fight at Altamont, Oakland, Cranberry Summit, Maryland, and Rowlesburg, West Virginia. Fighting also breaks out at Burlington and Portland, West Virginia; College Grove, Tennessee; and near Independence, Missouri. April 23 to 29 sees a Federal expedition from Opelousas toward Niblett’s Bluff, Louisiana, and an expedition to Celina, Kentucky. April 26 to May 12 there are operations in southeastern Kentucky and around Monticello.
April 27, Monday

Captain Forbes and Company B find a strong detachment that has been left by Colonel Grierson awaiting them at the nearest bridge; they burn it together and hurry on to rejoin Grierson at the Pearl River. This same day, the exhausted men of Colonel Hatch and his 2nd Iowa Cavalry—detached from Grierson’s column back on the 21st—complete their mission, crossing back into Tennessee and regaining their base at La Grange.

In Virginia the Northern Army of the Potomac begins to move. Hooker’s forces march from Falmouth up the Rappahannock toward the fords over the river. Preparations are over. Lincoln, anxious as always, particularly about Hooker, writes, “How does it look now?” But it is too early to tell.

At Fredericksburg, General Lee is growing increasingly nervous. “I feel by no means strong,” he writes to President Davis, “and from the condition of our horses and the amount of our supplies, I am unable even to act on the defensive as vigorously as circumstances may require.” Lee is fully aware of the Federal army’s numerical superiority. Worse, his scouts have been unable to divine where Hooker will strike next.

Marmaduke and his Southerners continue their fighting at Jackson and near White Water Bridge, Missouri. In Tennessee fighting flares on Carter Creek Pike; and in Kentucky at Barboursville and at Negro Head Cut near Woodburn. In Virginia a Union expedition continues from Yorktown beyond Hickory Forks; other action occurs in Alabama at Town Creek; in West Virginia at Morgantown and Independence; and in South Carolina at Murray’s Inlet. In North Carolina through the next four days a Federal expedition operates from New Berne toward Kinston with a skirmish at Wise’s Crossroads.

In the Confederate Department of East Tennessee, Major General Dabney H. Maury is relieved by Major General Simon Bolivar Bickner. Maury takes command of the District of the Gulf. The Confederate Congress provides for the issue of 8 percent bonds or stock to discharge certain agreements prior to December 1, 1862.
April 28, Tuesday

The three leading corps of Hooker’s Army of the Potomac find the Rappahannock at Kelly’s Ford in the Wilderness area, upstream from Fredericksburg, swollen by the recent rains, but cross without delay on pontoon bridges laid by the engineers. Meanwhile, a large force still confronts the Confederates across from Fredericksburg, and early in the morning the bell in the city’s Episcopal church rings out the alarm. Word has come to General Lee from Jeb Stuart that a large body of infantry and artillery is passing up the river, but there is no way of knowing whether this is a feint, an expedition to the Shenandoah Valley—or something else.

In Mississippi Grierson’s troops skirmish at Union Church. In Kentucky a series of skirmishes near Monticello lasts several days. Town Creek, Alabama, is another site of action.

Lincoln commutes the death sentence of Sergeant John A. Chase, convicted of striking and threatening an officer, but orders him imprisoned at hard labor “with ball and chain attached to his leg” for the remainder of the war.
April 29, Wednesday

Colonel Grierson’s raiders are only about fifty miles from Grand Gulf, but he is starting to worry. If General Grant has landed, there should be indications—fleeing civilians, troop movements, or sounds of battle. So far there has been nothing. Then, not far from Grand Gulf, Grierson encounters something that deeply concerns him. The enemy is now on his track in earnest. The raiders are in the vicinity of the Confederates’ stronghold, and, from couriers and dispatches that they capture, it is evident that the enemy is sending forces in all directions to intercept them. It is time to escape. From southwestern Mississippi there is only one refuge Grierson can hope to reach: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, about 150 miles distant. That river port is now in Federal hands, and Grierson decides to head for it. His men are approaching the limits of their endurance. They have been covering thirty to fifty miles a day, sleeping little, and eating what they can find in the countryside. As the troops travel, they replenish their stock of horses as best they can from farms and plantations. But even the freshest of their mounts—which now include mules—are flagging.

During Grierson’s Raid, General Grant, poised on the west bank of the Mississippi, has come up with one more distraction for General Pemberton. North of Vicksburg, General Sherman’s corps is still positioned before the town’s defenses. Somewhat tentatively, Grant has suggested that these troops might make a feint against Vicksburg near Chickasaw Bluffs, the scene of Sherman’s earlier, disastrous attack. “The effect of a heavy demonstration in that direction would be good as far as the enemy are concerned,” Grant has written to Sherman, “but I am loath to order it, because it would be hard to make our own troops understand that only a demonstration was intended and our people at home would characterize it as a repulse. I thereby leave it to you whether to make such a demonstration.” Sherman, who prides himself on being a loyal subordinate, responds indignantly—and typically. “Does General Grant think I care what the newspapers say?” he asks a staff officer. He writes to Grant: “We will make as strong a demonstration as possible. As to the reports in the newspapers, we must scorn them, else they will ruin us and our country.”

Today Sherman sets off with ten regiments, ordering the men to spread out over the decks of their transports so that they will “look as numerous as possible.” Admiral Porter still has a few boats above Vicksburg, and they are ordered to get up steam so that the Confederates will think a major landing is planned. The gunboats and transports whistle and puff, and make all the noise they can. They show themselves to the garrison and then drift back and land the men, who are marched through the woods until they are seen by the enemy. Then the soldiers are taken back on board the boats “to go through the same farce again.” Pemberton has dispatched reinforcements in the direction of Grand Gulf to help meet the threat from across the river, but now he receives an alarming message from Brigadier General Carter L. Stevenson, his commander north of Vicksburg. “The demonstration at Grand Gulf must be only a feint,” Stevenson telegraphs Pemberton in a panic. “Here is the real attack. The enemy are in front of me in force such as have never been seen before at Vicksburg. Send me reinforcements.” The regiments that have been sent to fight Grant are hastily ordered to turn around and head back to meet Sherman’s thrust. Some of the Confederate soldiers are so exhausted by the time they get back to the town that citizens in carriages have to help them to their lines. They arrive just in time to see Sherman load his men into their transports for the last time, and sail away.

Meanwhile, the naval bombardment of Grand Gulf has begun. Despite the fact that Grant’s various diversionary tactics have succeeded admirably, the Union fleet runs into stiff resistance. While work on Grand Gulf’s gun emplacements began in early March, by this time the defenses are still unfinished. Nevertheless, they are formidable—as Admiral Porter, who is tasked with subduing them, quickly finds out. Situated near the junction of the Mississippi and Big Black Rivers, Grand Gulf is commanded by a promontory fifty feet high, and atop this bluff the Confederates have positioned sixteen artillery pieces. Most of the cannon on board Porter’s gunboats are far heavier than the Confederate pieces, and therefore the Union forces do not anticipate much trouble. Transports and barges loaded with the men of McClernand’s XIII Corps stand out of range, ready to land. Some of the men have been aboard these vessels for two days, and they soon discover that they face a longer wait. As Grant watches from a tug in the middle of the Mississippi, the Federal fleet and Confederate batteries pound each other. The duel lasts five hours, and both sides do extensive damage. More than 2,500 Federal projectiles fall on the hilltop batteries, but the Confederates suffer only eighteen casualties. Porter, down below, is hit much harder. He loses 18 killed and 56 wounded, and his vessels are battered—one of them, the Tuscumbia, so badly that it will be out of action for days. When the Federal gunboats renew the attack three hours later, they are unable to silence the Confederate guns.

Grant goes aboard Porter’s flagship, the Benton, for a consultation. There seems no point in hammering away any further at Grand Gulf. They must try to make a landing elsewhere. Grant still needs Grand Gulf as a supply port, but if he can get troops ashore farther to the south they can march back and take the town’s fortifications from the rear. The soldiers are returned to the Louisiana bank and allowed to disembark, and Grant casts about for a new place to land. Here as elsewhere along the Mississippi, the terrain is laced with waterways. A landing site has to provide not only dry ground at the bank but also a dry route back to Grand Gulf. Only a local person might know of such a place, and come evening soldiers abduct a slave from the east bank and bring him to headquarters. He points out a good landing spot: the village of Bruinsburg, eight miles downriver. It is high and dry.

In Virginia, the first sign of what General Hooker might have in mind comes on the old battlefield south of Fredericksburg, near Hamilton’s Crossing, where Jubal Early’s division of Stonewall Jackson’s corps is stationed. The enemy movement catches the celebrated Jackson during a rare interlude of relaxation. He has not been home in two years, had not seen his wife for nearly one year, and had never laid eyes on his only child. Taking advantage of the early-spring lull, he has brought his wife and infant daughter to his headquarters at the Yerby House, a mansion near Hamilton’s Crossing. They have spent eight days together when, this morning, Jackson is awakened to hear that General Sedgwick is launching Hooker’s long-awaited offensive; Federal troops are pouring over pontoon bridges thrown across the Rappahannock during the night. Jackson makes preparations to send his wife and baby home, says a long goodbye, and rides to the front.

Jubal Early has already deployed his regiments on the plain near the Old Richmond Road and along the railway embankment when Jackson arrives, and Brigadier General Robert Rodes is in motion, marching up to reinforce Early. Sending a aide to alert General Lee, Jackson orders A.P. Hill to bring his division into line along the crest of the ridge to Early’s right. Lee soon rides out to confer with Jackson, and then sends a request for reinforcements to President Davis. As the day progresses, evidence of the true Federal intentions begins to accumulate. Sedgwick’s troops at Hamilton’s Crossing, although poised to attack, make no move. Then Lee receives word that 14,000 men—General Howard’s XI Corps—has crossed the Rappahannock at Kelly’s Ford. Perhaps, Lee speculates, Howard is heading for the railroad junction at Gordonsville to harass Confederate supply lines. Toward evening, however, more information comes from west of Fredericksburg. Couriers report that Federal cavalry and infantry have crossed the Rapidan at Germanna and Ely’s Fords. From those fords the roads converge on Chancellorsville. The threat to the Confederate left is growing, and Lee decides to send Major General Richard Anderson’s division toward Chancellorsville to cover the roads leading to Fredericksburg. Anderson moves out during the night. Reaching the area of Chancellor House, he confirms that a large enemy force is bearing down from the west. he decides to withdraw from the tangled Wilderness, where maneuver is difficult, and take up a defensive position in open country. He selects a ridge near the Tabernacle Church and just west of a fork in the Plank Road that leads from Fredericksburg. The two roads that run westward from the fork—the Plank Road arcing to the south and a more northerly route known as the Turnpike—come back together at Chancellorsville. Thus Anderson’s division covers both of the main routes the Federals might take.

Meanwhile, the major part of Hooker’s army crosses the Rappahannock at Kelly’s and the US fords, plunging into the Wilderness, clear of the left flank of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Stoneman, with the Federal cavalry, operates against Lee’s communications. Other actions in the area break out at Franklin’s Crossing or Deep Run just below Fredericksburg, and at Pollock’s Mill Creek, known also as White Oak Run or Fitzhugh’s Crossing. Federals from Falmouth try to divert the Confederates from the major effort above the city. Other skirmishing in Virginia is at Crook’s Run and Germanna Ford, near Kellysville, Brandy Station, and Stevenburg. In West Virginia Confederate Grumble Jones fights a skirmish at Fairmont.

In the West a Federal scouting party moves out from La Grange, Tennessee, into northern Mississippi for two or three days.

In Tennessee there are reconnaissances from Murfreesboro on the Manchester Pike and on the Chapel Hill Pike; while in Missouri Marmaduke fights Federals at Castor River. A two-day Federal expedition operates from Opelousas to Chicotville and Bayou Boeuf, Louisiana.
April 30, Thursday

At dawn, General Lee is still trying to decide what to do. As usual, he prefers to attack when in a tight situation. Yet he remains unsure of where he should strike. Jackson thinks that Sedgwick offers an inviting target, but Lee, worried by the artillery still massed on the heights across the Rappahannock, doesn’t agree. By late afternoon, Sedgwick still has made no move to advance out of his bridgehead below Fredericksburg. His inaction, along with further reports of the Federal concentration at Chancellorsville, at last convinces Lee that the real threat lies to the west. Lee now gambles everything on his judgment, issuing orders for a general movement toward Chancellorsville. Jackson is instructed to leave only Early’s division in front of Sedgwick’s troops. The rest of Jackson’s corps will march westward at dawn to join Anderson near the Tabernacle Church. McLaws is to leave only a brigade on the ridge beyond the town and follow with the rest of his division as swiftly as he can.

General Hooker’s three lead corps are across the Rapidan and advancing southeast through the desolate expanse of scrub pine, oak, and dense underbrush known as the Wilderness. By noon Meade’s V Corps has arrived at the 50-acre clearing around Chancellorsville; by 2 pm Slocum has reached Chancellorsville at the head of XII Corps, with Howard’s XI Corps following. Simultaneously, Couch’s II Corps, having been ordered forward, is preparing to cross the Rappahannock at United States Ford, which the Confederate pickets abandoned when threatened from the rear. Although the march is running six to nine hours behind schedule, Hooker’s plan appears to be working perfectly. Meade is exultant when he meets Slocum at the Chancellorsville crossroads, eager to get out of the Wilderness. He is surprised when Slocum informs him that they are not to move forward without further orders. Hooker, it turns out, is determined to wait for additional forces. Couch has not yet arrived, and Sickle’s III Corps, summoned from Falmouth Heights, will not reach Chancellorsville until tomorrow morning. Without these two corps, Hooker declines to move any closer to the Confederates.

Hooker seems to believe that his successful flank march has already decided the contest. When he arrives in Chancellorsville in the evening, he issues an order hailing the army’s progress in triumphant terms: “The operations of the last three days have determined that the enemy must either ingloriously fly or come out from behind his entrenchments and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him.”

At Grand Gulf, on the Mississippi, General McClernand’s troops board their transports again and shortly thereafter are put ashore, unopposed, at Bruinsburg. The landing is anticlimactic, but General Grant is jubilant. He is far from victorious, however. Vicksburg isn’t taken yet, nor are its defenders demoralized by any of his previous moves. He is now in the enemy’s country, with the Mississippi between him and his supplies. But Grant is a fighting man, and now at last he can fight. More men are on their way, but Grant doesn’t wait. He knows that Confederate infantry at Grand Gulf will be moving to meet him, and he moves to strike first. The only route to Grand Gulf leads inland, along the high ground through the little town of Port Gibson, twelve miles east of Bruinsburg and six miles southeast of Grand Gulf. McClernand’s corps sets out for Port Gibson this same afternoon.

The Confederate commander at Grand Gulf is 32-year-old Brigadier General John S. Bowen, a cool and highly regarded officer who attended West Point. Before the war, Bowen was an architect in St. Louis, and a neighbor of Ulysses S. Grant’s. He will be at a distinct disadvantage in the coming clash. With some of his troops off chasing Benjamin Grierson, and several thousand more being held north of Vicksburg in response to Sherman’s feint, Bowen has only 5,500 men to confront Grant’s 20,000. Today, making the most of his meager resources, Bowen orders Brigadier General Martin Green to place his brigade between Bruinsburg and Port Gibson in the expectation that the Union forces will come this way. Bowen holds back most of his troops until he can be sure how the fighting is developing. When night comes and nothing has happened, Green rides forward to see where the Federals ar. By a fork in the road he comes upon the Shaifer house. The women who live there are in near panic, hastily packing household goods in a wagon before taking refuge in Port Gibson. Green seeks to calm them. There is plenty of time to pack, he says. The Yankees won’t come before daylight. At this moment there is a rattle of gunfire. The women leap into their wagon and flee, and Green hastily deploys his men to meet the attack. But McClernand’s troops are having second thoughts about pressing their attack. It is dark, and the ground is rough. For the remainder of the night there is only scattered fire. Both armies sleep with their weapons and wait for daylight. Grant will later write that the terrain around Port Gibson is the most difficult he has ever seen: “The country in this part of Mississippi stands on edge, as it were, the roads running along the ridges except when they occasionally pass from one ridge to another. Where there are no clearings the sides of the hills are covered with a very heavy growth of timber and with undergrowth, and the ravines are filled with vines and canebrakes, almost impenetrable.” John Bowen makes the best possible use of the rugged countryside. During the night his remaining troops begin coming up, and he positions them across the two ridgetop roads that run from the direction of Bruinsburg into Port Gibson.

President Davis tells General J.E. Johnston, who is trying to aid Vicksburg’s defender, Pemberton, “General Pemberton telegraphs that unless he has more cavalry, the approaches to North Mississippi are almost unprotected and that he can not prevent cavalry raids.”

Still another Federal raider is active, this time in Alabama. Streight’s men fight actions at Day’s Gap or Sand Mountain, Crooked Creek, and Hog Mountain. Confederate raiders are active as well. W.E. “Grumble” Jones in West Virginia fights at Bridgeport and Marmaduke skirmishes at Bloomfield, Missouri. Skirmishing breaks out at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, where Union forces are holding on tenuously.
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