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American Civil War Timeline 1863
9-13 January 1863: Battle of Arkansas Post, Arkansas
Federal combined operation against a Confederate position on the Arkansas river that succeeded but at too high a cost for General Grant, who ordered a withdrawal.
20-22 January 1863
The ‘Mud March’ – a failed offensive by the Army of the Potomac, foiled by heavy rain and mud. Soon afterwards Burnside was replaced by General Joe Hooker.
1 May 1863: Battle of Port Gibson, Mississippi
Part of Grant’s Vicksburg campaign in which a small Confederate army of 6,000 was defeated by 23,000 Union soldiers.
2-5 May 1863: Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia
A Confederate victory that ended a Union offensive and opened the chance of a Confederate invasion of the north.
7 May 1863
Start of the Big Black River campaign, aimed at the capture of Vicksburg, the key to the Mississippi.
12 May 1863, Battle of Raymond, Mississippi
First battle during the Big Black River campaign
14 May 1863: Battle of Jackson, Mississippi
Second victory for Grant during his Vicksburg campaign.
16 May 1863: Battle of Champion’s Hill, Mississippi
Union victory in Grant’s Vicksburg campaign that defeated General Pemberton’s mobile army defending Vicksburg.
17 May 1863: Battle of Big Black River, Mississippi
Second defeat inflicted on the remnants of Pemberton’s army.
19 May 1863:
First Union attack on Vicksburg defeated
22 May 1863
Second Union attack on Vicksburg defeated. After this second failure, Grant was able to settle down into a regular siege.
27 May 1863
Union attack on Port Hudson, 240 miles south of Vicksburg. Repulsed with heavy losses
First week of June sees Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania start up the Shenandoah Valley.
7 June 1863: Battle of Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana
Defeat of a Confederate force being sent from Louisiana to help at Vicksburg. Most famous for the impressive performance of two recently formed units made up of Black soldiers.
9 June 1863: Battle of Brandy Station.
Largest cavalry battle of the war. A confederate victory in which a large Union cavalry force, sent on to find General Lee, was repulsed after some initial success.
14-15 June 1863: Battle of Winchester (Second), Virginia
Confederate victory in a battle caused by the failure of a federal army to retreat in time.
14 June 1863
Union attack on Port Hudson repulsed with heavy losses.
14 June 1863
General Rosecrans begins a campaign in Tennessee that drives the Confederates back 80 miles in a week, leaving Knoxville and Chattanooga (a key rail junction) exposed to the Union.
1-3 July 1863: Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Defeat of General Lee’s invasion of the North. The confederate army suffered severe casualties, and was never as effective again. Over a third of Lee’s army became casualties.
4 July 1863: Surrender of Vicksburg.
The garrison of 30,000 was released on parole, on the expectation that they would spread gloom around the Confederacy. General Grant was later to say that the surrender of Vicksburg was the decisive event of the war.
9 July 1863
Port Hudson surrenders after news of surrender of Vicksburg reaches the garrison. The North now controls the Mississippi River.
18 July 1863: Battle of Fort Wagner, South Carolina
A failed Union attack during the Charleston campaign. Its significance was the impressive performance of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the north’s elite black regiment. This battle changed the general view of Black soldiers in the north.
16 August 1863
Rosecrans begins the Union campaign against Chattanooga.
3 September 1863
Union forces under General Burnside enter Knoxville
8 September 1863
Confederates evacuate Chattanooga. Confederate General Bragg withdraws to Georgia, where he is soon reinforced.
10 September 1863: Battle of Bayou Forche
Battle just outside Little Rock during the Union conquest of Arkansas that saw the Confederate defenders of the city forced to retreat south.
10-13 September 1863
Bragg attempts to defeat separate parts of Rosecran’s army but is let down by his subordinates.
19-20 September 1863: Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia
The bloodiest battle of the western theatre. A Confederate victory, although not as decisive as it could have been, that resulted in the only Confederate siege of a city at Chattanooga.
President Lincoln forms a new Division of the Mississippi, to cover the area between the Mississippi and the Appalachian mountains, partly to improve the command structure at Chattanooga. General Grant is appointed to command the new division. A sizable new Union army is soon formed in the area, including 17,000 men under General Sherman.
14 October 1863: Battle of Bristoe Station,
Confederate army under General Hill attacked one Union force, just to find itself under attack by a second.
28-29 October 1863: Battle of Wauhatchie, Tennessee
Accidental battle that marked the only Confederate attempt to break Grant's 'Cracker Line' feeding supplies into Chattanooga.
16 November 1863: Battle of Campbell's Station, Tennessee
Successful delaying action that allowed the Union forces under Burnside to get back inside the defences of Knoxville.
19 November 1863
Start of the Siege of Knoxville
23 November 1863: Battle of Orchard Knob/ Indian Hill, Tennessee
The first battle of Grant’s attack on Chatanooga. The approaches to the Confederate positions on Missionary Ridge were captured.
24 November 1863: Battle of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
First attack by Grant’s new army forces the Confederate forces off Lookout Mountain.
25 November 1863: Battle of Missionary Ridge, Tennessee
Second Union attack outside Chattanooga that included one of the few occasions in the war where a frontal attack against a fortified position succeeded. The battle breaks the siege of Chattanooga.
29 November 1863: Battle of Knoxville, Tennessee
Failed Confederate assault on the Union positions at Knoxville.
4 December 1863
Longstreet abandons the Siege of Knoxville.
14 December: Battle of Bean's Station, Tennessee
A minor Confederate victory that ended the serious fighting in the Knoxville campaign.
1861 | 1862 | 1863 | 1864 | 1865
1: President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation
2: End of the Battle of Stones River (December 31,1861-January 2, 1863, also known as the Second Battle of Murfreesboro
11: Battle of Arkansas Post
30: Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assumes immediate command of the expedition against Vicksburg
2-3: Passage of the Vicksburg and Warrenton batteries, and capture of the steamers A. W. Baker, Moro, and Berwick Bay by the Queen of the West
3: Yazoo Pass Expedition begins (February 3-April 12)
13: Passage of the Vicksburg batteries by the Indianola
14: Confederates capture the Queen of the West
24: Confederates capture the Indianola and More
26: President Abraham Lincoln signs the National Banking Act into law
3: National Conscription Act is signed, leading to the New York Draft Riots in July
19: The Georgiana is destroyed on her maiden voyage while attempting to run the blockade into Charleston, South Carolina
22: Confederate attack on Mount Sterling (Ky.)
28: Skirmish at Hurricane Bridge (W. Va.)
31: Battle of Somerset (Dutton’s Hill)
1-16: Expedition, including the 12th Wisconsin Infantry, from Jackson, Tenn., to the Hatchie River, and skirmishes
7: First Battle of Charleston Harbor
12: End of the Yazoo Pass Expedition (February 3-April 12)
16: Passage of the Vicksburg batteries by gunboats and transports
17-May 2: Grierson’s Raid from La Grange, Tenn., to Baton Rouge, La.
18-24: Expedition, including the 12th Wisconsin Infantry, from Memphis, Tenn., to the Coldwater, Miss., including action at Hernando on the 18th, and a skirmish on the 19th at Perry’s Ferry
20: Battle of Washington in Beaufort County, North Carolina
22: Passage of the Vicksburg and Warrenton batteries by transports
29: Bombardment of Grand Gulf, Miss., and passage of the batteries
29-May 5: Scout from La Grange, Tenn., into Northern Mississippi
30-May 6: Battle of Chancellorsville
- 6th Wisconsin Infantry – Company B was the Prescott Guards
- plus the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 26th Wisconsin Infantries
11-15: Expedition from La Grange, Tenn., to Panola, Miss., and skirmishes on the 11th at Coldwater and the 14th at Walnut Hill, Miss
14: Battle of Jackson (Miss.)
16: Battle of Champion Hill (Miss.)
17: Battle of Big Black River Bridge (Miss.)
18: Siege of Vicksburg begins
- 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry – Company D was the Saint Croix Rangers
- 8th Wisconsin Infantry – Company C was the Eau Claire Badgers
- 12th Wisconsin Infantry – Company A was the Lyon Light Guards (from Prescott)
- 16th Wisconsin Infantry – Company G was the Chippewa Valley Guards
- 20th Wisconsin Infantry – Company A included many Pierce County men
- plus the 11th, 14th, 17th, 18th, 23rd, 25th, 27th, 29th, 33rd Wisconsin Infantries, and the 1st, 6th, and 12th Batteries of Wisconsin Light Artillery
22: Siege of Port Hudson (La.) begins
9: Battle of Brandy Station (Va.)
11: Morgan’s Great Raid begins
14: Second Battle of Winchester
17: Battle of Aldie
20: West Virginia admitted to the Union as the 35th state
- 6th Wisconsin Infantry – Company B was the Prescott Guards
- plus the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 26th Wisconsin Infantries
4: Vicksburg (Miss.) captured
4: Battle of Helena (Ark.)
4-5: Fight at Monterey Pass/Gap
5: Jackson Expedition (Miss.), and more
9: Siege of Port Hudson (La.) ends (the 4th Wisconsin Infantry participated, but much of Company G was not involved)
10-11: First Battle of Fort Warner
13: Draft Riots in New York City
18: Second Battle of Fort Wagner (made famous in the movie Glory)
18: Beginning of the Siege of Charleston Harbor (July 18-September 7), also known as the Second Battle of Charleston Harbor
26: Morgan’s Raid, or The Great Raid of 1863 (June 11 to July 26, 1863)
- in Tennessee (June 11 to July 2)
- Battle of Tebbs Bend, or Green River (July 4)
- Battle of Salineville (July 26, 1863)
- (July 19, 1863)
7: End of the Second Battle of Charleston Harbor (July 18-September 7)
7-8: Second Battle of Fort Sumter
7-9: Third Battle of Cumberland Gap
19-20: Battle of Chickamauga (Ga.)
22: Battle of Blountville
1-9: Wheeler’s Raid of October 1863
07: Battle of Farmington (Tenn.)
10: Battle of Blue Springs
14: Battle of Bristoe Station
15: Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley sinks during a test
27: Battle of Brown’s Ferry
28-29: Battle of Wauhatchie
16: Battle of Campbell’s Station
17: Siege of Knoxville begins
19: President Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the military cemetery
23: Third Battle of Chattanooga begins
24: Battle of Lookout Mountain
25: Battle of Missionary Ridge
26: Battle of Mine Run
27: Battle of Ringgold Gap
27: Confederate cavalry leader John Hunt Morgan and several of his men escape the Ohio state prison, and return safely to the South
29: Battle of Fort Sanders
08: President Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction
14: Battle of Bean’s Station
25: Confederate batteries on John’s Island attacked USS Marblehead near Legareville, South Carolina, in the Stono River and sustained 20 hits as USS Pawnee and mortar schooner C. P. Williams added firepower to the return bombardment. After more than an hour, the Confederates broke off the engagement and withdrew.
How the American Civil War Happened
The American Civil War happened because of slavery. Period.
People may try to convince you otherwise, but the reality is they don’t know the history.
In the South, the main economic activity was cash-crop, plantation agriculture (cotton, mainly, but also tobacco, sugarcane, and a few others), which relied on slave labor.
This had been the case since the colonies first came into existence, and although the slave trade was abolished in 1807, the Southern states continued to rely on slave labor for their money.
There was little in the form of industry in the South, and in general, if you weren’t a plantation owner, you were either a slave or poor. This established a rather unequal power structure in the South, where rich White men controlled almost everything.
What’s more, these rich powerful White men believed their businesses could only be profitable if they used slaves. And they managed to convince the public at large that their lives depended on the continuaton of the institution of slavery.
In the North, there was more industry and a larger working class, which meant wealth and power was more equally distributed. Powerful, rich, landowning White men were still mostly in charge, but the influence of lower social classes was stronger which had a dramatic effect on politics, specifically on the issue of slavery.
Over the course of the 1800s, a movement to end the institution of slavery — or to at least stop its expansion into new territories — grew in the North. But this was not due to a majority of Northerners feeling that owning other people as property was a horrifying practice that defied all morality and respect for fundamental human rights.
There were some who felt this way, but the majority hated it because the presence of slaves in the workforce drove down wages for working White people, and slave-owning plantations absorbed new lands that free White men could otherwise buy. And God forbid the White man should suffer.
As a result, the American Civil War was fought over slavery, but it didn’t touch the foundation of White supremacy upon which America was founded. (This is something we should never forget — most especially today, as we continue to work through some of these very same fundamental issues.)
Northerners also sought to contain slavery because of the three-fifths stipulation in the US Constitution, which said that slaves counted as three-fifths of the population used to determine representation in Congress.
The spread of slavery to new states would give these territories more people to count and therefore more representatives, something that would give the pro-slavery caucus in Congress even more control over the federal government and could be used to protect the institution.
So, from everthing covered so far, it’s clear the North and the South didn’t see eye to eye on the whole slavery thing. But why did this lead to the Civil war?
You would think the White aristocrats of 19th century America could sort out their differences over martinis and oysters, eliminating the need for guns, armies, and lots of dead people. But it’s actually a bit more complicated than that.
The Expansion of Slavery
While the American Civil War was caused by a fight over slavery, the main issue regarding it leading up to the Civil War was not actually about abolition. Instead, it was about whether or not the institution should be expanded into new states.
And in lieu of moral arguments about the horrors of slavery, most of the debates about it were really questions regarding the power and nature of the federal government.
This is due to the fact that, during this period, the United States was encountering issues not thought of by those who wrote the Constitution, leaving the people of the day to interpret it as best they could to their present situation. And since its establishment as the guiding document of the United States, one major debate about Constitutional interpretation was about the balance of power between states and the federal government.
In other words, was the United States a cooperating “union” with a central government that held it together and enforced its laws? Or was it merely an association between independent states, bound by a contract that had limited authority and that could not interfere with the issues occuring at the state level?The nation would be forced to answer this question during a time known as the American Antebellum Period due to its westward expansion, driven in part by the “Manifest Destiny” ideology something that claimed it was God’s will for the United States to be a “continental” nation, stretching from “sea to shining sea.”
Expanding West and the Slavery Question
The new territory gained in the West, first from the Louisiana Purchase and later from the Mexican-American War, opened the door for adventurous Americans to move and pursue what we can probably call the roots of the American dream: land to call your own, successful business, the freedom to follow your interests both personal and professional.
But it also opened up new lands plantation owners could buy up and man with slave labor, closing this unclaimed land in open territories to free White men, and also limiting their opportunities for gainful employment. Because of this, a movement began to grow in the North to stop the expansion of slavery into these newly opened areas.
Whether or not slavery was allowed depended significantly on where the territory was located, and by extension, the type of people who settled it: slavery-sympathetic Southerners, or Northern Whites.
It’s important to remember, though, that this anti-slavery stance in no way represented progressive racial attitudes in the North. Most Northerners, and even Southerners, knew that containing slavery would eventually kill it — the slave trade was gone, and the country as a whole was less dependent on the institution.
Containing it to the South and banning it in new territories would eventually make slavery irrelevant, and it would construct a Congress with the power to ban it forever.
But this didn’t mean people were ready to live alongside those formerly in bondage. Even Northerners were extremely uncomfortable with the idea of all the nation’s Negro slaves suddenly becoming free, and so plans were developed to solve this “problem.”
The most drastic of these was the establishment of the colony of Liberia on the West African coast, where freed Black people could settle.
America’s charming way of saying, “You can be free! But please go do it somewhere else.”
Controlling the Senate: North v. South
Nevertheless, despite the rampant racism throughout 19th century United States of America, there was a growing movement to prevent slavery from expanding. The only way to do this was through Congress, which was frequently split in the 1800s between slave states and free states.
This was significant because as the country grew, new states needed to announce their position towards slavery, and this would affect the balance of power in Congress — specifically in the Senate, where each state got, and still gets, two votes.
Because of this, both the North and the South tried their best to influence each new state’s position on slavery, and if they could not, they would attempt to block that state’s admission to the Union so as to try and maintain the balance of power. These attempts created political crisis after political crisis throughout the 19th century, with each one showing more than the last just how divided the nation was.
Repeated compromises would delay the Civil War for decades, but eventually it could no longer be avoided.
American Civil War April 1863
April 1863 saw the start of the third year of the American Civil War. The economic plight of the South was taking a heavy toll. Coupled with this, the Army of the Potomac started to finalise plans for an attack on Richmond, the Confederacy’s capital.
April 2 nd : Riots occurred in Richmond where people were becoming desperate at the economic plight of the Confederacy. Food in particular was in short supply. The riot was termed a “bread riot” by locals though it turned into a general looting session. It was only quelled when the rioters listened to Jefferson Davis who spoke to them in person and then threw the money in his pockets at them. It was a sufficient gesture to disperse the rioters.
April 3 rd : Lincoln visited Hooker and pressurised him into an attack on Richmond. In response Hooker put in for 1.5 million ration packs.
April 4 th : Hooker prepared the Army of the Potomac for an attack on Richmond. The Army’s Secret Service Department was ordered to prepare updated maps on the defences at Richmond.
April 5 th : Several Confederate ships were detained in Liverpool docks, as it was believed that they were blockade-runners.
April 10 th : Lincoln reviewed the Army of the Potomac at its winter quarters in Falmouth, Virginia. The troops he met expressed their full confidence in Hooker – a view not totally shared by the president. Lincoln had to dampen down Hooker’s rhetoric about capturing Richmond and remind him that defeating Lee’s Army of Virginia was far more important and that Richmond was the bait to lure Lee into battle.
April 13 th : General Burnside issued his General Order Number 38, which threatened the death penalty for anyone found guilty of treasonable behaviour.
April 17 th : This day saw the start of Colonel Ben Grierson’s Union legendary raid into the Confederacy. With 1700 cavalrymen, Grierson roamed 600 miles during his raid deep into the South. The raid lasted 16 days and within the Union army Grierson became a legend.
April 20 th : Lincoln announced that West Virginia would join the Union on June 20 th 1863.
April 21 st : Hooker finalised his plan of attack. He hoped to fool the South into thinking that Fredericksburg was his main target while moving three corps of troops against Lee’s left flank. 2000 mules were acquired by Hooker to speed up the movement of his army.
April 24 th : The Confederate Congress passed a tax set at 8% on all agricultural produce grown in 1862 and a 10% tax on profits made from the sale of iron, clothing and cotton. There was much public hostility to these new taxes but a general acceptance that they were needed. The biggest problem facing the South’s economy was the fact that much land was used for the growing of cotton and not for food.
April 26 th : Hooker’s offensive against Lee’s Army of Virginia and Richmond started. However, torrential rain turned many of the roads/tracks he used to mud and made movement very difficult.
April 28 th : The rain has made movement so difficult that engineers had to lay logs on the surface of roads/tracks to allow wagons to move.
April 29 th : Lee’s scouts informed him that it was their belief that the attack on Fredericksburg was a feint and that their observed movement of many men on Lee’s left flank was the real target of Hooker. Lee accepted the advice of his scouts and ordered Stonewall Jackson not to attack Union troops at Fredericksburg – despite Jackson’s request to do just this.
April 30 th : Hooker ordered 10,000 cavalrymen to raid Lee’s communication bases. The raids, while impressive with regards to the number of men involved, achieved very little and if anything served to boost the confidence of Lee’s Army of Virginia.
21 Civil War, 1863-65
“Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.” — Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 1865
Momentum shifted in the Union’s favor in the summer of 1863. There were times in 1864 when the Confederacy nearly invaded Washington, or the North was on the verge of giving up, but Confederate forces suffered irreparable blows in 1863 on three main fronts: the West (Mississippi River), Upper South (Tennessee), and East, where Robert E. Lee failed a second time to invade the North. Three battles — Vicksburg (MS), Chattanooga (TN), and Gettysburg (PA) — turned the tide in favor of the North. European investors were evenly divided as to whom they predicted would win up until Gettysburg. Afterward, the percentage of speculators bullish on the Confederacy fell to 15%. Stonewall Jackson’s death at Chancellorsville, Virginia that spring also hurt Confederates’ chances, even though his Grays won the battle. Jackson lost his arm to friendly fire and died later from pneumonia. The Jackson-Lee combo had made the Confederates effective in Virginia earlier in the war, so the week-long bloodbath at Chancellorsville was a costly, or pyrrhic victory.
Ulysses S. Grant @ Cold Harbor, Virginia, 1864 (left) and Robert E. Lee, 1865, Photo by Mathew Brady, Montage of Two Wikipedia Images by Hal Jespersen
In the Western Theater, Union General Ulysses S. Grant continued his incessant Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, where residents were holed up in dugouts under the town. Grant eventually worked his way over the Mississippi River above the point where it widens and snuck in behind the besieged town. His forces rampaged the area in the process, living off the land, demoralizing civilians, and tearing up infrastructure. In combination with another victory at Port Hudson, Louisiana near Baton Rouge, where Confederates surrendered after a 48-day siege upon hearing of Vicksburg’s capitulation on July 7th, the Union now controlled the “Mighty Mississippi.” Animated Map Holding America’s main water route meant that Midwest farmers could export crops to Europe via New Orleans. Further north and east, farmers used the Great Lakes and Erie Canal for shipping, but winning the Lower Mississippi Valley swung many Butternut farmers just north of the Ohio River to the Union cause (they’d been so-called in reference to the yellowish brown color of some Confederate uniforms dyed from copperas and walnut hulls). The Erie Canal and the mines around Syracuse, New York gave the Union a monopoly on salt and means to move it around. Salt gave them a critical advantage on food preservation and health (even brain function) after the Union cut off Confederate licks in the Chesapeake. Lincoln described this violent struggle for control of the Mississippi with an eloquent spin: “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.”
In the Upper South, the Union made headway in its Chattanooga Campaign, giving them a shot at invading the Deep South the following year, in 1864. The Vicksburg campaign divided the Confederacy, isolating the western portion of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, and the Union’s post-Chattanooga invasion divided the heart of the Old South in the east.
Leading the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee couldn’t gloat for long after his 10k outnumbered Grays defeated 20k Blues led by Thomas Hooker at Chancellorsville in early 1863. For one, Stonewall Jackson died after the battle, but Lee also figured that the South couldn’t win a protracted war against the North’s superior resources and decided to gamble on another northern invasion. Lee wanted to invade for many of the same reasons he had in 1862, when the Union thwarted Confederates at Antietam, Maryland. Like before, Lee hoped to make Northern civilians feel the sting of war, steal supplies (including ammo and shoes), kidnap free Blacks to sell into slavery, and gain control of key railheads — in this case, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Harrisburg was home to Camp Curtin, the largest Union arsenal. Lee hoped that by invading the North he could get to Washington, D.C. through its more exposed northern side or, at least, raze Baltimore or Philadelphia.
The Union’s Army of the Potomac was hot on Lee’s trail as he moved north, buffering itself between Confederates and Washington, D.C. This was one case where Lincoln didn’t want his army to concern itself with Richmond, but rather focus on Lee’s Army and protecting Washington. In fact, Commanding General Joseph Hooker resigned over this disagreement, as he saw Lee’s northern invasion as an ideal opportunity to attack Richmond. Lincoln, though, thought that if the Union took that bait, they’d get trapped south of the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg. He cabled Hooker: “In case you would find Lee crossing north of the Rappahannock I would by no means cross south of it. If he should leave a rear force at Fredericksburg, tempting you to fall on it…getting an advantage of you Northward…I would not take any risk of being entangled upon the river, like an ox jumped half over a fence, and liable to be torn by dogs, front and rear, without a fair chance to gore one way or kick the other.”
George Meade, ca. 1860-65, Photo by Mathew Brady, Library of Congress
The Army of the Potomac couldn’t stop Lee as he moved north through Winchester, Virginia toward Harrisburg. These were tense times in the Union, with Democrats in Ohio and New York demanding that Lincoln release war protestors and Hooker seemingly unable to slow Lee’s advance. The Confederacy even sent VP Lincoln Stephens to D.C. to negotiate a truce from their seeming position of strength, but Lincoln refused him. Instead, he replaced Hooker with little-known Pennsylvanian George Meade in the middle of the campaign. Meade had a steep learning curve: one day to prepare to defend his home state and, in turn, the entire Union. Confederates cut his telegraph line to Lincoln, so Meade was on his own. Lincoln waited things out anxiously in the telegraph office nonetheless, not even leaving when First Lady Mary Todd was seriously injured in a carriage accident.
The “Stars & Bars” Confederate Battle Flag
Meade was a quick study and Lincoln’s gamble paid off when the two armies met outside the heretofore sleepy village of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in early July 1863. Animated Map It started as a skirmish between two small cavalry units. Lee heard that Meade’s main forces were there and, without scouting, ordered his entire army to converge on Gettysburg, even though he wasn’t entirely satisfied with the location. Within a day, around 90k Blues and 75k Grays converged on the town of 2400 — the largest assemblage of troops and artillery in North American history. Soldiers from nearly every state in the country waged relentless war for three days, often in hand-to-hand combat amidst cornfields, streets, barns, boulders, and peach orchards.
On the first day, they fought in and around the village, with victorious Confederates raising their battle flag (right) in the town square to celebrate their first victory on northern soil. Moreover, the Union lost their best general, John Reynolds. But when the initially outnumbered Union troops retreated, they fled to higher ground, giving them a good defensive position. Union reinforcements streamed in and went up the fishhook-shaped Cemetery Ridge south of town. By the time Lee’s Army of Virginia regrouped, their 75k faced a growing Army of the Potomac that swelled to 90k. Union Commander Meade warned that anyone who deserted the ridge would be put to death. Confederate General James Longstreet (left) thought they should attack the Union’s left flank, occupying the space between them and the road to Washington and forcing them to come down and chase them. But Commander Lee stubbornly pointed toward Cemetery Ridge and said, “the enemy is there and I am going to attack him there.” Robert E. Lee was a great general but, in this case, he should’ve heeded Longstreet’s practical advice after all, their goal was to invade Washington. Instead of losing the battle but winning the war, as the phrase goes, Lee could have skipped the battle to win the war or at least forced the Union down off the hill before engaging.
Gettysburg demonstrated the importance of high ground. The Confederates’ frontal, uphill assaults failed on Day Two even in spots where they had the Union outnumbered. When desperate Blues from Maine and Minnesota ran out of ammunition and bayonet-charged down Little Round Top, a Confederate recounted that the Alabama 15th “ran like a herd of wild cattle.” Thousands of John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade and the 3rd Arkansas died in hand-to-hand combat amidst boulders in Devil’s Den, below Cemetery Ridge, as soldiers with no time or room to shoot and reload relied instead on bayonets and rifle butts. On the right flank, 1500 Federals held off 5k North Carolina Tar Heels and Louisiana Tigers. After more failures on Day Three, Lee finally ordered the heroic but futile Pickett’s Charge against Cemetery Ridge, but Union cannons mowed down most of Pickett’s men as they came across the field. When Lee first heard cheers from hundreds of yards away, he thought they’d won, but he was hearing Union soldiers. Honorably owning up to his hubris, he rode among his men and said, “All this is my fault…it is I who’ve lost the battle.” Seven million fired bullets later, the epic three-day Gettysburg battle had resulted in the highest casualty rates of the war, with
50k dead or injured on the two sides.
Northerners saw the war up close for the first time as the small town was left littered with over 8k corpses and thousands of dead horses. Arms and legs dripping with blood and infested with maggots and flies piled up outside hospital tents that bellowed with screams and moans. Spectators who flocked there to rubberneck at the carnage were pressed into service dealing with scores of Union and Confederate wounded, who lay side-by-side. They did their best to bury the dead in lime-covered mass graves, but the stench was so powerful they were still rubbing peppermint oil under their noses when Lincoln arrived to commemorate the battlefield that November.
General Lee’s own health was deteriorating by this point and his Army of Northern Virginia never recovered its full strength after Gettysburg. The Union, meanwhile, consolidated its defenses around Washington. Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ political support eroded in the South. Just as Antietam ended any hope of an overt (public) British alliance, Britain abandoned even its covert (secret) aid to the Confederacy after Gettysburg, cutting off production of two ironclad cruisers. That made it more difficult for Confederates to break through Winfield Scott’s Great Snake (or Anaconda) naval blockade. Here are videos of Blues and Grays uniting at the Gettysburg veterans’ reunions from 1913 (50th) and 1938 (75th):
Vicksburg and Gettysburg were key victories midway through the war, without which the Union wouldn’t have been in a position to win two years later. The most important thing about Gettysburg, though, was what didn’t happen. A Confederate win at Gettysburg might have brought the North to heel, breaking the Army of the Potomac or leading to Washington’s destruction. Lincoln might have been forced to capitulate or even been killed or captured. Had the Confederates made their way up Little Round Top on Day Two or across Emmitsburg Road in Pickett’s Charge on Day Three, the United States might not be here today in its present form. Nonetheless, the famous Pennsylvania battle didn’t win the war for the Union or turn an inevitable tide in their favor. They lost a huge battle at Chickamauga (northern Georgia) in September 1863, that tallied the second-highest casualty rates of the war behind Gettysburg. That temporarily blocked Union plans to invade the Deep South, which would have to wait until the following year. Moreover, at several points in 1864 the North nearly gave up and, if not for Lincoln’s reelection in 1864, made possible more by the fall of Atlanta than Gettysburg, the Confederacy very well could’ve gained independence, or at least maintained slavery. As late as March 1865, a month before the war ended, brokers bought slaves on the Richmond market and Dutch bankers bought Confederate bonds, if both at cut rates.
Battle of Chickamauga, 1863, Kurz & Allison (ca. 1890), Library of Congress
After the Gettysburg win on the Fourth of July 1863, Lincoln was relieved but surprisingly unhappy, even after word of the key victory at Vicksburg, Mississippi arrived on July 7th. He was distraught that General Meade allowed Confederate forces to retreat instead of chasing them down and finishing them off, especially since they were trapped on the northern side of the flooding Potomac River. In Meade’s defense, he was just following Lincoln’s direction to stay between Lee and the capital, and he’d heroically helped defend the country in his first week on the job. Still, the stressed-out Lincoln was dejected and frustrated that the war was going on so long. He penned the commander an angry letter, accusing him of blowing an opportunity to end the war by not chasing down Lee. “You had them in the hollow of your hand…and let them escape…you cannot imagine how upset I am.” But Meade’s battered troops weren’t spoiling for a fight after three horrific days at Gettysburg and who is to say how ferociously Lee’s troops might have fought with their backs to the flooding Potomac. Realizing perhaps that he was asking too much, Lincoln never sent the letter, though he replaced Meade shortly thereafter. Many Union forces were predisposed after Gettysburg, anyway. Less than a week after the battle, exhausted, sore, sunburned, and dehydrated but still healthy troops trekked all the way across the cornfields of Pennsylvania and New Jersey to put down the bloodiest urban riot in American history: the New York City Draft Day Riots.
New York Draft Riots, 1863, Illustrated London News
Draft Day Riots
Some background here is in order. Most Irish immigrants in New York were poor refugees from the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s. In America, they got low-paying jobs, often competing with free Blacks for menial labor. Southerners used Irish for dangerous work like loading cotton bales onto ships because black slaves were worth money. Once the war started, the Irish, aka the “Blacks of Europe,” were disproportionately represented on both sides’ front lines. Irishman Mathew Brady, many of whose portraits you’ve seen in the last couple chapters, took graphic photos of the war’s carnage and displayed them at his New York studio. Many of the victims were Irish.
“Incidents of the War. A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, PA. Dead Federal Soldiers on Battlefield,” Negative by Brady Employee Timothy H. O’Sullivan
The way the Union draft worked, the rich could buy exemptions and the poor and middle classes did most of the fighting (they also scoured Europe for immigrants, including future journalist Joseph Pulitzer). Now, with the Emancipation Proclamation, the war’s aim included abolition and working-class Irish had no interest in helping to free slaves. That would only lower their bargaining power for wages. Fueled by alcohol and aggravated by heat, they took out their frustrations on both Blacks and wealthy Whites in a riot that started during a draft lottery on the corner of 47th Street and 3rd Avenue. The mostly Irish Fire Engine Co. #33 broke up the lottery, arguing that firemen should be exempt from the draft.
Flickr Commons, British Library
The police, many of whom were Irish themselves, lost control of the city and/or purposely gave up. (The term paddy wagon derives both from Irish “patties” arrested and from Irish police driving the wagons.) Twenty thousand troops who were usually stationed nearby had left to fight at Gettysburg. At one point, rioters nailed shut the doors and windows of a black orphanage (above), burning to death the kids inside. Women and children grabbed shovels, tongs, bricks, and coal-scuttles. The mobs went after the mayor’s home, railroads, and telegraph lines and the New York Times would’ve lost their office if not for three Gatling guns manned by newspaper staff. Some heroic police fought back and the department offered refuge to Blacks in its headquarters. Six Union Army regiments finally arrived and joined forces from nearby Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, firing cannons into the streets to put down the mobs. Some troops knew or were even related to the rioters they mowed down.
Frederick Douglass, ca. 1860
The Draft Day Riots symbolized broader discontent, as similar riots shook Albany, Newark, Hartford, and Boston on a smaller scale. New York City, especially, had been a hotbed of pro-slavery sentiment long after New York state abolished slavery in 1820, because its textiles depended on slave-grown cotton. As we’ve stressed before, slavery was part of an Atlantic economy, not just the Southeast. In the 1850s, New York’s streets teemed with fugitive slave bounty hunters and kidnappers. Lincoln didn’t carry the city’s votes in either of his presidential bids, in 1860 or . Not all Northerners, in general, were enthused with Lincoln turning the war into an abolitionist crusade and there were limits to how long the Union could tap working classes through the draft. Confederate arsonists, too, tried to burn New York in 1864, but Irish firemen doused all 19 of the blazes they set. Lincoln gambled with the Emancipation Proclamation, hoping the newfound support he gained from Blacks and abolitionists would outweigh the loss of support from racists or people apathetic to the cause.
After much debate, including lobbying from Frederick Douglass and opposition from George McClellan, Lincoln decided to use black troops in combat. The soldiers fought in segregated units like the famous Massachusetts 54th Regiment or the 1st South Carolina Volunteers (recruited from freed slaves), making a strong contribution to their own emancipation as we learned in the previous chapter. By the end of the war, in a statistic that says as much about Confederate attrition as anything else, the North had more black soldiers than the South had white. Douglass’ own son fought for the Union and he lobbied Lincoln for equal pay among all troops. Douglass was now firmly in the president’s camp.
Lincoln Reframes: Gettysburg Address
Lincoln had come a long way in a short time, since promising to preserve southeastern slavery in 1860 and advocating that Blacks be deported to Panama as late as 1862. While now a dedicated abolitionist and supportive of using black troops, he remained true to his earlier cause of preserving the Union. If anything, the cause of keeping the democratic experiment alive had more meaning now than ever.
Lincoln @ Gettysburg, 11.19.1863, Photo by David Bachrach
In November 1863, Lincoln was “asked to provide a few appropriate remarks” as the government consecrated a battlefield for the first time in its history. He traveled to Gettysburg to commemorate the big battle there and spoke about the Union’s mission. The battlefield was still fresh, with wolves having dug up some of the hastily buried corpses and the smell of death in the air. Few paid much attention at the time, but in his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln uttered some of his most famous words, recited in northern classrooms for generations and etched onto the interior walls of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Then he wrapped things up in less than five minutes, amidst an early snow. The entire speech was only ten sentences long — so short that photographers were still setting up their equipment when he finished, which is why our only image is the fuzzy one above. The crowd stood silently at first because they didn’t think he was done. The president’s most inaccurate line was that “the world will little note nor long remember what we say here.” It’s true, at least, that the talk wasn’t strong on specifics. The president never explicitly mentioned the Union, Confederacy, secession, or slavery.
But Lincoln’s words were eloquent and inspiring. Instead of bowing to pressure and backing away from emancipation, Lincoln dedicated the fight to the proposition that “all men are created equal,” a proposition the Founders “brought forth on this continent…four score and seven years ago.” Four score (20) and seven was 87 years back to 1776, in keeping with Lincoln’s usual emphasis on the Declaration of Independence rather than the Constitution, ratified in 1788. He framed the Union’s efforts in an even bigger context, underscoring the fragility of democracy internationally and hoping that the men who died there, giving their “last full measure of devotion,” didn’t die in vain, but rather helped in making “government of the people, by the people, for the people” secure, so that it “shall not perish from the earth.” The U.S. would not only endure and outlast the current crisis, however bleak things seemed it would provide a future beacon for other nations. Lincoln was playing to the theme now known as American Exceptionalism. He also issued a reminder to future generations of the ongoing struggle for freedom, saying that it was left “for us the living” to rededicate ourselves to the war’s unfinished cause.
As mentioned in the Secession Winter chapter, Lincoln had a point regarding democracy’s fragility. Representative government was in full retreat in Europe after a spurt of hope in 1848, and the U.S. was one of only a few major republics left, along with Mexico and Switzerland. Lincoln understood that democracy might fail altogether and that the U.S. might not survive dismemberment if the Confederacy broke away. Closer to home, Lincoln had grieving parents and relatives on his hands and had some explaining to do. Being steeped in Shakespeare and the King James Bible imbued him with a flair for expressing his sympathies and framing his cause better than any statesman in American history. Yet after the Gettysburg Address, one Pennsylvania newspaper quipped, “We pass over the silly remarks of the President…they shall be no more repeated or thought of.” A London Times correspondent wrote, “Anything more dull and commonplace it wouldn’t be easy to produce.” Lincoln wasn’t too high on it either, grumbling as he sat down, “That speech won’t scour [as in soil falling off a plow]. It is a flat failure.” Yet, Lincoln understood that quality trumps quantity and the short speech was ideally suited to the telegraph, much like the 140 characters in a Tweet®. It spread quickly to newspapers around the country and became famous even before the war was over.
Lincoln contracted smallpox on the trip but got over it in a couple of weeks. His trusted black servant/valet, William Johnson, wasn’t so lucky. Lincoln said, “he did not catch it from me…at least I think not.” Typical of the convention of his times, Lincoln referred to the adult Mr. Johnson as his “colored boy.” An unsubstantiated legend grew that, when Johnson died, Lincoln engraved citizen on his tombstone in order to repudiate the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling in Dred Scott.
Lincoln Retools: Cabinet & Generals
Despite the victories of 1863, the Union was still nowhere near winning the war by then. Nor was the South about to give up. In fact, the South now had a more compelling reason to fight because it had turned into an all-or-nothing struggle. Abolition would upend their economy and disrupt their social structure. Prior to emancipation, the South could’ve lost, tucked their tail between their legs for a few years, and maintained slavery.
Lincoln, meanwhile, was not then viewed as the successful president most of us look back on him as being. Whatever he did displeased one faction or another in the North. He was, of course, hated in the Deep South and most of the Upper South. Ohio Republican William Dickson wrote that Lincoln “is universally an admitted failure, has no will, no courage, no executive capacity…and his spirit necessarily infuses itself downward through all departments.”
Edwin Stanton, ca. 1855-65, Library of Congress
Lincoln continued to revamp his command structure. He’d been hiring and firing generals throughout and found a winner at the top with a new Secretary of War. He fired the corrupt Simon Cameron and replaced him with an old adversary, Edwin Stanton. Years earlier, Lincoln had been hired to represent the defendants in a patent suit brought by the McCormick Harvest Machine Company (now International Harvester). After preparing for weeks and traveling to Cincinnati, he arrived at the trial only to learn that the better-known Stanton had replaced him. No one even bothered to notify Lincoln and Stanton didn’t acknowledge his presence, except to lampoon him behind his back as a hick. But Lincoln stayed and watched the trial. He was impressed with Stanton and filed that away instead of harboring personal animosity. Then Stanton, a Democrat, was a harsh critic of Lincoln during the first year of the war, ripping him in the newspapers. Yet, Lincoln hired him and basically said (I’m paraphrasing), “Okay hotshot, I’m out of answers. You run the war if you’re so smart.” It was a wise move, as Stanton ended up being superior to Cameron in managing day-to-day operations. He worked 15-hour days at a stand-up desk and wrote an old colleague, “No men were ever so deceived as we at Cincinnati.” Such stories, common in Lincoln lore, didn’t unfold in the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis stubbornly refused advice and Southern congressmen fought amongst themselves.
William Tecumseh Sherman, 1865, Photo by Mathew Brady, LOC
Lincoln also shook things up on the battlefield in 1863. He brought his less highly reputed but more ruthless western generals to the fore: U.S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, commanders of the Army of the Tennessee. These warriors hadn’t graduated high in their classes at West Point and were known to be rough around the edges. This is another way that Gettysburg was a turning point – not just because of the damage to Lee’s army, but also because of Lincoln replacing Meade.
Sherman became a Southerner prior to the war, serving as superintendent of what became Louisiana State University (LSU), but he supported the Union. Grant had once owned a slave named Jones in Missouri but set him free even though he was short on money. He had failed at various businesses. Many politicians and newspapers were appalled that Lincoln would hire Grant to oversee the Army of the Potomac. He was falsely rumored to fight drunk while smoking his trademark cigars. Rival officers, jealous that Grant was promoted over them because of his talent training inexperienced draftees, claimed that he was drunk at breakfast the morning Confederates launched a surprise attack on his forces at Shiloh, in southwestern Tennessee, in 1862 (his men rallied and won a costly two-day victory). In response, Lincoln retorted, “Find out the brand of his whiskey, and I’ll give it to my other generals.” In truth, Grant didn’t hold liquor well with his 5″ slight frame, and he binged away from work, but he wasn’t an alcoholic. When asked the reason for promoting Grant, Lincoln said, “I can’t spare this man…he fights.”
Sherman pushed for an invasive scorched earth policy that Grant and Lincoln were both skeptical about at first because it involved Sherman leaving his army exposed, deep in enemy territory. His troops could’ve been swallowed up whole, never to be heard from again except as the subject of victorious anthems commemorating the birth of a new Confederate nation. The British Army & Navy Gazette called the idea either the most brilliant or foolish thing a military leader had ever done.
But Sherman’s plan was the type of strategy Lincoln himself had tried to impress on McClellan, Meade, and the others, at least toward Richmond. Now, Lincoln wanted to take the fight to the “sunny South,” as he called it. It wasn’t a matter of malice toward Southerners. Without tangible results on the battlefield, Lincoln thought he’d lose his reelection in 1864, in which case the war would likely be lost because he’d naturally attract an opposing candidate that appealed to the many Northerners who wanted to give up.
Without realizing it, Lincoln, Sherman, and Grant were putting the strategy in play that Frederich Engels described to Karl Marx in a letter two years earlier: “The loss of both these states [Tennessee and Kentucky] drives an enormous wedge into their territory. The sole route [then connecting the slave states] goes through Georgia…the key to the secessionists’ territory. With the loss of Georgia, the Confederacy would be cut in two sections, which would have lost all connection to one another.”
Panoramic View From Top of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, February 1864, Photo by George Barnard
Sherman Skins the Hide
Sherman broke out of Chattanooga, Tennessee from Lookout Mountain and steamrolled through Georgia, decimating everything in his path. He promised to make “the South feel the heavy hand of war…to make war so terrible that the rebels would never take up arms again.” Sherman’s hard war was something akin to what we’d call total war today. Meanwhile, Grant would fight Lee in the war’s epicenter, Virginia, as Philip Sheridan pillaged farms and villages in that state’s Shenandoah Valley. Lincoln cabled Grant, “You hold the hind legs, while Sherman skins the hide.” Their goal was to destroy the South’s economy and the will of its people, expanding on the Anaconda Strategy to divide the Southeast in two, so the two snakes could then squeeze off two regions isolated from each other. Lincoln countered hard war critics by asking if they would prefer fighting with “elder-stalk squirts charged with rosewater.”
During Sherman’s March to the Sea, his “Little Devils” (mostly Midwestern teenagers) killed and stole livestock, burned crops, barns, and homes, broke levees, and tore up railroad tracks in a 50-100 mile-wide path of four columns. In a way, Sherman’s March wasn’t entirely dissimilar to a tornado cluster moving through Georgia, except slower. The official march portion of the campaign kicked off with the Battle of Atlanta, immortalized in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, culminating in the capture of Savannah on the Atlantic coast. Instructed to destroy everything of military value, the soldiers burned over 30% of Atlanta, the South’s major railroad hub and industrial center. Atlanta’s destruction helped secure Lincoln’s victory in the upcoming November election. Then, completely cut off from Union contact and supplies, Sherman issued a field order to his 60k troops to take what food they needed on their way to Savannah, bringing them into more conflict with the civilian population. Sherman had a map with census records including crop yields, so he knew where to send his “Bummers” to forage. Bummers/Little Devils looted and vandalized their way to infamy in Southern lore and even robbed graves in the Battle of Atlanta.
Sherman’s Men Destroying Railroad, Atlanta, Georgia, 1864, Photo by George N. Barnard
Sherman divided the inexperienced Confederate forces that blocked his path by feigning toward both Augusta and Macon, pulling them off in either direction, then forging between them. When Confederates did confront them, Union soldiers with Spencer repeating rifles mowed down the outgunned, mostly young and middle-aged militias. When Confederates planted land mines on the road, Sherman forced prisoners to march at the front of the line to search for them. Meanwhile, vigilantes hunted down Union foragers. Georgians destroyed some towns and crops preemptively in front of Sherman that’s the flip side of scorched earth strategy, done to starve invading armies. Soviets employed that successfully against the German Wehrmacht in WWII, just as their Russian forebears had against Napoleon the previous century.
Sherman’s March, Ken Burns’ Civil War (PBS)
Sherman also freed slaves but didn’t want to take them along because that would’ve required yet more food. Despite his wishes, many refugee slaves joined the growing sea of humanity as it made its way toward the Atlantic. Refugees slowed the increasingly hungry army as it lumbered its way toward Savannah at 10-15 miles per day. A Union general by chance named Jefferson C. Davis took matters into his own hands in one of the columns. The Union built a floating pontoon bridge to cross Ebenezer Creek, just 25 miles from Savannah. After the white soldiers crossed, the pro-slavery Union general ordered the bridge cut away, leaving 600 recently freed slaves on the opposite bank, trapped between the water and pursuing Confederates led by Joe Wheeler. Several hundred perished trying to swim across while most of the rest were re-captured. Sherman approved of the heartless (and ironic) tactic and Davis went on to lead the first American soldiers ever stationed in Alaska.
Sherman’s March to the Sea, 1864, Engraving by Alexander Hay Ritchie, 1868, Library of Congress
“Sherman’s Boys” reached the coast after seizing Fort McAllister and would’ve destroyed Savannah just as they had Atlanta, but city leaders ransomed the cotton stored in their silos in exchange for preserving the city. Sherman presented Savannah as a Christmas gift to Lincoln in a letter. Around the same time, Lincoln got another Christmas present with Union victory at the Battle of Nashville, eroding the Confederates’ prospects in the western war. Then, Sherman’s Boys were on to South Carolina where, to the amazement of military planners on both sides, they waded through swamps at over ten miles per day holding their rifles aloft. Local Lumbee Indians, some of whom fought for the Confederacy earlier in the war, and a gang led by free Black Henry Berry Lowrie, helped them navigate the terrain. Sherman also had Oneidas from Wisconsin among his troops. Around 20-30k Indians fought in the Civil War, including slave-holding Cherokees for the Confederacy. In exchange for their service, they were allowed to sit in the Confederates’ Congress.
Though Sherman doesn’t seem to have ordered it himself, and even slept through it, his drunken soldiers reduced South Carolina’s state’s capital of Columbia to ashes, burning 84 square blocks. Sherman’s army wanted to burn the church where South Carolina voted to secede in 1860 but locals pointed them toward a different Methodist church, which they burned while leaving the intended target, First Baptist Church, standing. Since Charleston could be invaded from the sea — which it was that December, with Union ships taking Fort Sumter and Confederates moving John C. Calhoun’s coffin to avoid Union troops raiding his grave — Sherman’s army veered toward North Carolina, where the war wound down before he could link up with Grant in Virginia. In January, Union troops took Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, the last remaining Confederate port. Sherman went easy on North Carolina because they’d only narrowly decided to secede, but he exacted revenge on South Carolina because, “Here is where treason began, and here is where it will end.”
Capture of Fort Fisher By Union Troops, Chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison, Library of Congress, 1890
Sherman was successful, losing only 600 of his 60k troops, but left a trail of destruction along a fairly narrow path. I say narrow because the legend of his campaign grew in subsequent years so that you’d think his army marched along a 500-mile wide band rather than 50-100, killing everyone in sight. Sherman’s army revered him, calling him “Uncle Billy,” and he helped end the war by executing a daring campaign, preferring to destroy property rather than men as best he could. They say the victor writes the history but, in this case, Sherman played a bigger part in Confederate lore than Union. Even a century-and-a-half later, the name Sherman isn’t likely to pop up on any of the annual most-commonly-given-names-for-newborns lists, at least not in the Southeast. Sherman in Georgia, Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, and Grant around Vicksburg are why resentful Southerners referred to the “War of Northern Aggression” with some accuracy. The “War Between the States” moniker popular among some post-war Southerners probably wouldn’t have made sense during the war because it conceded that it was a civil conflict whereas contemporary Confederates saw themselves as founding a new nation and fighting the “War for Southern Independence.” (Names of the Civil War)
Grant Holds The Hind Legs
Further north in Virginia, Grant’s men and their opponents hadn’t fared so well in terms of avoiding casualties. Grant calculated that Lee would run out of troops long before he did, even if he lost men at a higher rate. He thus fought a war of attrition against Lee, slamming into Lee’s troops relentlessly with frontal assaults and racking up staggering casualties on both sides in the spring and summer of 1864 during the Overland Campaign. Some called Grant “the Butcher,” while Lee’s men killed more Americans than Hitler or Tojo in the 1940s. In truth, neither liked war, but neither was one to shy away from a brawl. In the North, Grant’s jealous rivals and a war-weary public stuck him with the unfair “butcher” label and Southerners looking for another villainous scapegoat (besides Sherman) after the war perpetuated the myth.
At one grisly confrontation, the Battle of the Wilderness, thousands burned to death in forest fires set off by artillery. Grant refused to give up even though the Army of the Potomac had clearly lost the battle, taking a stand in the road and refusing to let the Confederates by. At Cold Harbor, neither Lee nor Grant would agree to stop fighting as wounded men baked in the sun for days, most of them dying.
Arlington Mansion, Virginia, War Department-Pentagon Records, National Archives
Unable to keep up with mounting corpses, the Union built a new National Cemetery outside Washington, next to Lee’s mansion in Arlington, Virginia so that he would have to spend his retirement looking at the tombstones. To Abraham Lincoln’s embarrassment, Mary Todd maneuvered to keep their oldest boy Robert out of the fray until things died down. He served as a captain under Grant in 1865. After Grant’s two-month bloodletting in the late spring of 1864, the Union was poised to lay siege to Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia.
The Union’s “Dictator” Siege Mortar @ Petersburg, Virginia Symbolized Its Industrial Advantage,
The 1864 presidential election was arguably the most important in U.S. history. Many fellow Republicans wanted Lincoln out, seeing him as a decent person but unqualified for such a high office. While we normally dislike our presidents when they’re in office, it’s surprising that contemporaries also viewed Lincoln as a poor writer and speaker. Lincoln seemed to rise above the noise, even as his wife Mary Todd felt the sting of his criticism. The Republicans re-nominated him, but opposing Lincoln for the Democrats was none other than his old nemesis, General George McClellan.
This Cartoon From New York’s Currier & Ives Firm Shows McClellan As The Only Hope for Peace, Keeping Lincoln and Jefferson From Tearing the Country Apart. However, While Only McClellan Favored Peace, Only Lincoln Was Likely To Keep the Map From Ripping (At Least From Ripping Apart a Country Free of Slavery)
McClellan wanted to drop the Emancipation Proclamation and Democrats invented the pseudo-scientific term miscegenation (mixed-race relations) to stoke interracial fears of “amalgamation.” Moreover, McClellan wanted to negotiate a settlement, a stance most historians and many voters at the time interpret/ed as meaning he would’ve given up. Lincoln not only wouldn’t give up, he steadfastly refused to drop emancipation from the Republican platform, arguing that the causes of unionism and abolition had fused. Yet the Republicans also toned down abolitionist rhetoric, instructing Frederick Douglass to lay low and completely avoiding the word slavery. To gain more votes, the Republicans carved out Union-held parts of northwest Virginia and formed the new state of West Virginia. The 39 counties actually voted on their own to secede from Virginia. Since many out west supported Lincoln, they rushed Nevada into statehood before it hit the customary threshold of 100k citizens.
Technically, Lincoln didn’t run as a Republican, though, because he added loyal Southern “War Democrat” Andrew Johnson to his ticket, creating a new National Union Party. The Senator made a name supporting universal white manhood suffrage in Tennessee, took a controversial stand against secession there in 1860, and helped Union troops defend Nashville during the war. The cartoon above shows the former tailor Johnson helping Lincoln mend the Union back together. Meanwhile, with what little money they had, the Confederacy supported their old foe, McClellan, because they figured that if he won, he’d give up and they’d win. Northern Copperheads (Peace Democrats and Confederate sympathizers) also threw in their support for McClellan, along with other pacifists, churches, and some Republicans tired of the bloodshed.
If their exhaustion seems weak in hindsight, remember that Grant was losing more troops per month than the U.S. lost in Vietnam in eleven years, from 1964-1973. If the Civil War took place today, then by the spring of 1864 around five million would’ve been dead and no one knew that the war would end within a year. How many of us today would really think that any cause other than mere survival, which wasn’t at stake in 1864, was worth that?
Because of the stepped-up efforts of Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan, most crucially the Battle of Atlanta that July, Lincoln won reelection. Lincoln’s electoral fortunes swung when newspapers printed Sherman’s cable to Lincoln after the battle: “Atlanta is ours, and fairly won.” Union soldiers were allowed to vote, of which 78% voted for Lincoln, while Lincoln and McClellan split votes among northern white males.
The 1864 election is one problem with the common interpretation that Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War. It was important, for sure, weakening Lee’s army for the upcoming battles of 1864-65 but if it had been that decisive the war would’ve ended in 1863 not nearly two years later. In July 1864, Jubal Early’s Confederate troops attacked Washington, D.C. Had the Confederates won the Battle of Monocacy outside Frederick, Maryland and/or the Battle of Fort Stevens three days later, in what’s now northwest D.C., Lincoln could have lost the presidency and maybe the war. The Union easily defended the fort, with Lincoln making a rare battlefield appearance and being told to get down so rebel snipers wouldn’t spot his conspicuous stovepipe hat. Had Lincoln lost re-election and the new Union president sought peace, the Confederacy likely would have become a nation. Sidenote: The Union hero at Monocacy, (Indianan) Major General Lew Wallace (left), went on to write the best-selling novel of the 19th century, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880) .
Democratic-Copperhead Pamphlet, 1864, Mocking President Abraham Lincoln, Published by J.F. Feeks, New York
What Lincoln would’ve done in the interim (November-March) had he lost the 1864 election, we’ll never know. He might have stepped up the pressure to try to secure a victory before McClellan took office if his generals and army went along with it. Instead, Lincoln won and Union forces won a decisive victory at Franklin, Tennessee in late November, dealing a crippling blow to Confederate forces in the Upper South. New VP Andrew Johnson had ruled with an iron fist keeping parts of eastern Tennessee loyal to the Union, contributing to the Union’s important victories in the Upper South. But Johnson surprised Lincoln after the election by asking if he should attend the inauguration party. Then he showed up drunk and embarrassed himself with a speech before the Senate. Johnson was suffering from typhoid fever at the time and had three glasses of “medicinal whiskey” to prep for the occasion. Frederick Douglass sensed right away that Johnson hated Blacks, a potential problem if Lincoln didn’t live out his second term.
By winter 1865, Union victory was a virtual foregone conclusion and Lincoln focused on getting a Thirteenth Amendment passed abolishing slavery. It was no easy task and involved a considerable amount of political maneuvering, though Congress rather than Lincoln spearheaded the amendment, just as they had pushed hardest for the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln mainly hoped that states would abolish slavery on their own, which several did, including Missouri, Kentucky, and Louisiana. The President has no formal role in the amendment process so Lincoln worked behind the scenes bribing, cajoling, persuading, etc. In 1861, Lincoln was only trying to hold the Union together, but the war transformed him and the country. Later, Lincoln thought that, without abolition, the war would barely have been worth fighting and only return the country to where it was to start with. He understood that the Emancipation Proclamation, a wartime act, wasn’t binding they needed a real Constitutional amendment. In April 1864, the House of Representatives rejected the idea of an abolitionist amendment and many northern politicians either didn’t favor abolition or feared that it would complicate a potential capitulation on the part of the Confederacy.
Perhaps the South could be persuaded to quit the war and stay in the country if they were allowed to keep their slaves, similar to the original arrangement proposed by Lincoln in 1861. This was under discussion when Lincoln and William Seward met with Confederate representatives on a sidewheel steamer ferry at the Hampton Roads Conference in February 1865. Historians, unfortunately, don’t know many details as to what transpired aboard the River Queen because our only primary sources are retrospectives written by two Confederates, including VP Alexander Stephens. Lincoln’s old friend Stephens discussed Americans uniting in opposition to France’s invasion of Mexico (to bond by ganging up on a third party, the way Buchanan had proposed against Mormons in 1856), but Lincoln cut him off, redirecting the conversation to the all-important question of southern independence. Stephens reported that Seward was flexible on slavery but that the only ground Lincoln would yield other than financial compensation to slaveowners ($400,000,000) was a (legally problematic) delayed implementation of an abolitionist amendment. Lincoln believed that, under the Constitution, states had the right to maintain slavery, which is why the prospect of changing the Constitution permanently with an amendment was so important. The only agreement representatives struck at Hampton Roads was to resume prisoner exchanges.
Lincoln was negotiating from a strong position by early 1865 and he wanted both victory and abolition. As he put it, they “had the harpoon in the whale,” but the injured whale threatened to thrash its tail and overturn the boat. They needed to kill the whale, regardless of how many lives it cost over the late winter and early spring of 1865. He got his way, barely, when a lame-duck congress proposed the Thirteenth Amendment and sent it to the states. It only managed to pass the approval of ¾ of the states because the South wasn’t in the Union. The North fought the war to keep the South in the country, but already it saw the advantage of keeping the rebellious states out long enough to pass legislation favorable to its cause. With language drawn from the old Northwest Ordinance of 1787, that banned slavery north of the Ohio River, the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery in the U.S. except for prison labor.
Lincoln Channels John Brown
In his Second Inaugural Address in March 1865, Lincoln returned to the more reconciliatory stance he’d signaled at Gettysburg, concluding that the war would wind down with “malice toward none, and charity for all.” He could’ve pointed out that a little extra malice helped get him over the top the previous fall, especially in Georgia. Indeed, Lincoln went on to point out that the bloodletting would continue until the South gave up. So he was reconciliatory and he wasn’t.
John Wilkes Booth @ Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural In One Of The Loupes Above, With Fellow Conspirators Below, March 1864
Lincoln surprised everyone in the audience that day, including Frederick Douglass and John Wilkes Booth, by putting a religious, abolitionist-like spin on the war as a cosmic struggle resulting from God’s will to purge the sin of slavery from American soil. He’d hinted at something similar in Gettysburg. These words could’ve come out of John Brown’s mouth five years earlier, which is extraordinary considering that Lincoln had been viewed as a moderate early in the war. In 1861, Radical Republican Benjamin Wade said that Lincoln’s views on slavery were, “of one born of poor white trash and educated in a slave state [Kentucky].” That was a cheap smear even then, but Wade surely wouldn’t have said that by 1865. Only by understanding how radical true moral abolitionism was in the North can one appreciate Lincoln’s evolution on race and slavery. Or was he a pragmatic, closet abolitionist all along, doing what he had to do to put himself in a position to end slavery?
If you’ll pardon one psychoanalytic observation, only such a dramatic, history-changing cause could explain and justify to Lincoln the carnage his 1860 election and decision to fight had unleashed mere preservation of the Union didn’t suffice. Abolitionism might have been a psychological necessity, along with being good politics. The Second Inaugural also explains why it’s difficult to categorize John Brown as a terrorist or fanatic, at least without qualifying or diluting the label considerably. The ideas of run-of-the-mill fanatics aren’t vindicated by the mainstream establishment five years after their crimes.
At no point in the Second Inaugural did Lincoln mention earlier promises to compensate slaveholders for emancipation. The speech was short and didn’t go over very well at the time, partly because Lincoln didn’t present any concrete plans for Reconstruction. But, if Lincoln had made the speech in our time, the part that would have occupied cable stations, Tweeters, and bloggers for the next week would’ve been his equation of the Civil War’s violence with the 250 years of violence toward enslaved Blacks that led up to it. “Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'” Only after that whopper did Lincoln proceed to the more famous and generous “with malice toward none, and charity for all” line. The South should’ve grabbed the $400 million Lincoln put on the table at Hampton Roads when they had the chance.
The New York World, that only printed the speech “with a blush of shame,” was outraged that Lincoln would equate the blood that “trickled from the lacerated backs of the Negroes” with the carnage of “the bloodiest war in history.” The Chicago Times was likewise unfavorable: “We did not conceive it possible that even Mr. Lincoln could produce a paper so slip-shod, so loose-jointed, so puerile, not alone in literary construction, but in its ideas, its sentiments, its grasp.” Tough audience. Even Lincoln? These scathing criticisms came from New York and Illinois, Lincoln’s home state, not Alabama. Imagine how those incendiary lines went over with his future assassin, John Wilkes Booth, who was looming over the president’s left shoulder (above). Unlike Gettysburg, though, Lincoln liked the speech and said it would “wear as well – perhaps better than – anything I’ve produced.” It, too, is etched into the walls of the Lincoln Memorial.
Richmond Falls & Lee Runs Out Of Steam
By Spring 1865, Sherman had already rampaged through the Southeast and Grant’s war of attrition on Lee in Virginia was taking its toll. The South was running out of men and supplies, its soldiers now outnumbered by a 10:1 ratio. Richmond fell to Union troops on April 3rd, 1865. After Davis fled the Confederate capital in Richmond, Lincoln followed the army in and sat at Davis’ desk for hours. He had always wondered what his rival’s office looked like. The gossip was that Davis escaped in drag, but that was probably just editorial revenge for the stories of Lincoln covering himself in a shawl as he switched train cars in Baltimore on his way to Washington in 1861. Union troops finally tracked down Davis and temporarily jailed him, though he retired in relative luxury to his plantation in Biloxi, Mississippi and in New Orleans.
Richmond in Ruins, 1865, War Department: Office of the Chief Signal Officer
On April 9th, Lee sought re-supplies at a rail station near Appomattox, Virginia, but Grant beat him there in the “race to the rail.” Animated Map Lee’s trusted subordinate, General Porter Alexander, suggested dispersing the men into the woods to fight a guerrilla-type campaign against Grant, but Lee was having none of it. It was best, he said, to “look the fact in the face that the Confederacy has failed.” Grant and Lee met in a private Appomattox home adjacent to the courthouse and agreed to wind down their part of the war, which was the heart of the struggle even though smaller battles were still flickering across other parts of the country. Grant said, “Let us have peace.” In his Personal Memoirs (1885), Grant wrote:
What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us…We soon fell into a conversation about old army times. He remarked that he remembered me very well in the old army and I told him that as a matter of course I remembered him perfectly, but from the difference in our rank and years (there being about sixteen years’ difference in our ages), I had thought it very likely that I had not attracted his attention sufficiently to be remembered by him after such a long interval. Our conversation grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our meeting. After the conversation had run on in this style for some time, General Lee called my attention to the object of our meeting, and said that he had asked for this interview for the purpose of getting from me the terms I proposed to give his army.
The Union general fed the Confederates and told them to keep their guns for hunting and horses for farming, and to go home. The war died out over the coming weeks as word spread of Lee’s surrender.
McLean House @ Appomattox Court House Where General Lee Surrendered to General Grant, Major & Knapp Eng. Mfg. & Lith. Co. 71 Broadway, Library of Congress
The last battle was at Palmetto Ranch, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley near Brownsville. The last Confederate general to surrender was Cherokee Chief Stand Watie in Oklahoma. The outnumbered South had fought hard but finally crumbled in the face of superior firepower and numbers, along with the collective weight of railroads, telegraphs, industrial labor, and mechanized farming. CSA President Jefferson Davis said the South had gone to war without counting the costs. The Confederacy’s dream of founding a sovereign empire built around slavery and free trade was dead. Lincoln, the GOP, the Union Army (white and black), and abolitionists bent the arc of history.
The Last Victim
Lincoln, though, was about to make the same train trip as 1861 in reverse, this time back to Springfield, Illinois as part of his own funeral procession. He was killed a week after Lee’s surrender while viewing a play called Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater in Washington. Lincoln loved the theater and was even a fan of his own assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth. But Booth was a Confederate who despised Lincoln, especially Lincoln’s recent willingness to consider black suffrage for literate Blacks and army veterans (he mentioned as much regarding the legal status of Freedman in post-war Louisiana). According to witnesses, Booth said, “That means n****r citizenship, that’s the last speech he’s ever going to give, by God I’m going to run him through.” He thought the president had become a monarch by accepting a second term. Then, as with Andrew Jackson in the 1830s and today, people often thought democratically-elected leaders they didn’t like were dictators. Booth told his mother that he felt guilty having spent the war in theater while others fought on the battlefield, and it was too late for his original idea of kidnapping Lincoln to be worthwhile. Perhaps Booth could put his talents to even better use by killing him instead. Amazingly, Booth was engaged at the time to the daughter of an abolitionist senator, Lucy Hale. The actor was also locked in a bitter rivalry with his brother, Edwin Booth, a Unionist and abolitionist who was perhaps the most famous actor in America. Ironically, Edwin saved Lincoln’s son Robert by pulling him off railroad tracks earlier in Jersey City.
John Wilkes Booth and his conspirators all rented at the boarding house of Mary Surratt, in Washington. Surratt’s son John worked as a courier in the Confederate army. Together, they resolved to take out the upper tier of the Lincoln administration, including the president, vice-president, and secretary of state. Booth knew that Ulysses Grant was supposed to attend the play that night with Lincoln and he planned to kill him, too. However, Grant’s wife Julia didn’t get along with Mary Todd Lincoln and they opted out, perhaps saving his life and the course of American history since Grant went on to become a two-term president.
Lewis Powell (aka Lewis Payne), Taken On One of the Monitors, U.S.S. Montauk Or Saugus, Where the Conspirators Were Confined, Photo by Alexander Gardner
Booth’s compatriots didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. George Atzerodt (left) chickened out and didn’t try to kill VP Johnson. He never left the tavern he drank in to steel his nerves. Secretary of State William Seward’s would-be assassin, Lewis Powell, a strapping former Confederate POW, fought off Seward’s guards (including his son, Frederick, whom he pistol-whipped), entered his apartment and stabbed him in the cheek, but failed to slit his jugular vein. In the dark, he didn’t realize that Seward was wearing a metal splint around his neck and jaw after having been thrown from a carriage. The Seward men were seriously wounded, but both survived. William was badly scarred but went on to oversee America’s purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.
Broadside Advertising Reward for Capture of Lincoln Assassination Conspirators, illustrated with Photographic Prints of John H. Surratt, John Wilkes Booth, and David E. Herold, Library of Congress Rare Book & Special Collections Division
Booth was a recognized actor and familiar with the interior of Ford’s Theater. Earlier that day, in a small antechamber in Lincoln’s box, Booth carved a mortice to brace a tenon (stick of wood) in, the other end of which could be used to bar the door from the inside. During the first act of the play, he drank beer across the street. After intermission, he entered the theater and gave Lincoln’s valet Charles Forbes a calling card that Forbes accepted because of his fame as an actor. Booth entered the box with an eight-ounce .44 caliber Derringer pocket pistol and English hunting knife, locked the door behind him with the wooden stick, and shot Lincoln behind the ear at close range. Major Henry Rathbone, Grant’s replacement, tried to apprehend Booth, but the stronger actor broke free and slashed Rathbone in the cheek and on the arm with his dagger. Then Booth jumped down onto the stage and yelled “Sic semper tyrannis,” Latin for thus always to tyrants. This line from Julius Caesar’s assassin Brutus became Virginia’s state motto in 1776 and Booth likened himself to a modern-day Brutus (also his father’s middle name). Like Brutus, Booth saw himself as a patriot, but his patriotic duty compelled him to slay his tyrannical leader. Suiting his profession, Booth at least had some dramatic flair.
When someone asked if Lincoln’s wound was serious after they broke through the door, Major Rathbone purportedly held out his hand and said, “Yes, these are his brains.” They took Lincoln across the street to a boarding house and spread his 6’3” frame diagonally across a regular double bed where he died the next morning, the last victim of the Civil War. Coincidentally, Booth had napped in the same bed a year earlier when visiting a friend. As Lincoln passed, War Secretary Edwin Stanton said, “Now he belongs to the ages.” Stanton also took charge of the investigation. Confederate President Jefferson Davis was disappointed the other assassins hadn’t gotten Stanton and VP Johnson, which would have “made the job complete.” Coincidently, Lincoln started the Secret Service the day before his assassination, but it was only for ferreting out counterfeiters prior to 1902. They disinterred Lincoln’s beloved son Willie and the two made their way back to Springfield, their procession stopping in major cities along the route. In New York, 500k onlookers, a quarter of the city’s population of two million, swarmed 5th Avenue for the processional. Even in the countryside, mourners lined the tracks to catch a glimpse through an open boxcar door of a soldier guarding two caskets, one big and one small.
The ensuing manhunt was one of the biggest in history, with a $100k price tag on Booth’s head and several unfortunate lookalikes accidentally being shot in the North. After his horse fell on him, breaking his leg, Booth limped across Maryland, getting his leg set by Dr. Samuel Mudd. Others said he broke his leg when he snagged his spur on the bunting below Lincoln’s box and landed awkwardly on stage. Eventually, forces surrounded Booth in a barn at the Garret Farm in Virginia, set it ablaze, and shot him. They drug him out as he choked to death on blood while photos of actresses fell from his pocket. Rumors of his survival and escape to Texas and Oklahoma lingered on because all of the troops present at the barn had a stake in saying it was him to get a portion of the reward. According to the men who shot him, Booth’s last words were “useless, useless.” As indicated by his journal, he’d seen southern newspapers and realized that he wasn’t being lauded as a hero by most Confederates, despite Jeff Davis’ approval.
Like Brutus, Booth only succeeded in elevating his victim to sainthood. Lincoln’s death on Good Friday suggested that, just as Christ died to save souls, Lincoln had died to save the Union. His popularity shot up even among the millions of Northerners who’d loathed him just a week earlier. The following day the Richmond Enquirer, of all papers, headlined with, “The South Has Lost Its Best Friend.” Booth had done the region a disservice because it’s likely the northern government would’ve gone easier on the South had Lincoln not been killed.
Outright slavery was dead in the U.S. after 1865. At least on paper, the war secured the unity of the country, with no sign of secession in the early years of the 21st century other than some marginal grumbling (e.g. Texas under Obama, California under Trump). Linguists have even tracked a subtle change in the language after 1865, as people started saying the United States is this or that, instead of the United States are… Still, the Southeast didn’t re-integrate enthusiastically and, for a century afterward, became instead what journalist Tony Horwitz called (harshly, if somewhat accurately) a “stagnant backwater, a resentful region that lagged and resisted the nation’s progress.” Union and emancipation, the two great achievements of the Civil War, were both compromised in the century that followed as resentment boiled in the South and African Americans transitioned from slavery into lives of poverty, discrimination, violence, intimidation, and second-class citizenship.
But at least full-blown slavery was abolished and the country stayed intact. That unity forged at the cost of 720k lives and possibly another 50-100k civilians — what would be at least seven million proportional to today’s population, including nearly 20% of fighting age Southern males. Civilian casualties are harder to measure, but most historians estimate north of 50k, almost all in the South. Most of the guerrilla fighting around the periphery, extra-judicial executions, and torture never made the history books. Old estimates of 650k soldiers killed have been revised lately as historians have learned how many immigrants died that were never registered with the U.S. Census. Entire towns in the South lost all their eligible husbands and fathers, leaving young women with no one to marry. An astounding 73k Union soldiers died of syphilis contracted from camp-following prostitutes. Another 44k died of dysentery (diarrhea). Counting both sides, dysentery was the biggest killer in the war. A quarter of the 60k who underwent amputations died from diseases caused by unclean saws and hands.
Virtually no one in the South and few in the North were untouched or unaffected by the psychological trauma, as nearly everyone had loved ones killed or wounded in the war. The cost of the war — around $10 billion in 1860 dollars, or $300 billion today — could’ve more than paid for the large-scale planter compensation plan Lincoln advocated at the outset but, then again, the South wasn’t planning then on losing either the war or their slaves.
At stake was the West and America’s future. The North won both, though they never realized the Free Soilers’ dream of an all-white workforce. They freed the slaves but never sent them to South America or Africa. Through Lincoln, the Republicans fused Free Soilers with white evangelical and free black abolitionists, bound together by a commitment to preserve the United States. Backed by superior industry, a bigger population, more food-producing farms, and an army whose leadership improved over the course of the war, they outlasted the Confederacy, eclipsing their dreams of independence, slavocracy, and free trade. Edmund Ruffin, the Fire Eater (and pioneering soil scientist) who fired the first shot at Fort Sumter, committed suicide in 1865 rather than “submit to Yankee rule.”
Even as the war was being fought, Northern congressman un-encumbered by southern representatives were giving away western land to farmers and railroads, encouraging expansion. Lincoln launched the first transcontinental railroad during the war as a way to tie the North to the growing California economy, and a telegraph line preceded it. The government and military grew around 10x bigger each, spelling doom for the Plains Indians whom the North turned their wrath on even before finishing off the South. When he arrived in Washington, Lincoln saw three separate countries: the North, the Confederacy, and a remote economy in California spurred by the Gold Rush. In between the Midwest and California, Indians lived freely on the Plains and in the Rockies, obstructing the advance of white settlers and railroads. By the time Lincoln left office, the government was well on its way toward tying the three regions of the country together and subduing Plains and Southwest Indians. There were several horrific but little-known battles between the military and western Indians during the Civil War, including the Dakota War (1862), Snake War (1864-68), and brutal Bear River Massacre of Shoshone Indians in Idaho. The U.S. government gained control over the Lower 48 in the 1860s. Lincoln was also motivated to bring the West under Union control because he feared that the South would encroach on that territory if they won.
Lincoln also wanted to educate workers, especially in frontier areas. In 1862, the government issued land grants to found colleges featuring agriculture and engineering along with liberal arts (including Greek & Latin) — schools that today end in State or A & M, along with Rutgers, Arkansas, Purdue, and Clemson, and some that were private or partially private like Cornell University and M.I.T. in Boston. The first recipient was Kansas State Agricultural College, today Kansas State, in 1863. Many of the colleges in the Upper South, Plains, and Midwest are land grant schools, as is the University of California-Berkeley. Land grant money also built up schools that began before the war, like Louisiana St. (LSU) and Wisconsin.
The country maintained its strong agricultural base, but embraced industry, banking, and construction wholesale, while the Old South faded into memory. Southern aristocrats lost power just as feudal barons and lords would in Europe around the time of World War I, while “new money” industrial magnates rose to the top of the economic ladder. Congress passed tariffs for many years to come, helping to incubate American industry. The Industrial Revolution kicked into high gear and was itself propelled by the war. The Union Army’s need for beef led to the first mechanized factory in world history: Philip Armour’s meatpacking plant in Chicago, a precursor to the assembly lines of the next generation. Samuel Colt won the contract to provide rifles. Government orders demanded that military uniforms be sewn on a mass scale, propelling the advent of sizes in clothing. Before that, tailors measured people individually.
Hospitals with nursing staffs evolved so that the Union could triage casualties. The government stepped into a new role coping with the dead during wartime, using dog-tags, notifying next-of-kin, developing an ambulance corps, building national cemeteries, and establishing Memorial Day. The military started a pension system for survivors. Photography advanced as journalists raced to document the conflict (one reason for all the photos of dead soldiers is that battle scenes would’ve been blurry). Baseball spread from big northeastern cities across the country as bored troops passed the time between battles, spreading to the South and becoming the American Pastime. The war also brought us Thanksgiving, as Lincoln strove to remind Americans of their historical unity, and Cinco de Mayo, as Mexico staved off France’s attempt to take over its country while the U.S. was too pre-occupied to enforce the Monroe Doctrine.
Then there were more intangible costs. How many young men never became husbands and fathers because they died on the battlefield? How much labor did they fail to contribute to the country’s fields, mines, offices, and factories? Were there any geniuses among them, any future Einsteins or Edisons, who might have made a lasting impact, cured cancer, or invented a labor-saving tool we still lack today? How much hate and bitterness was engendered between North and South, and how much lingered for at least a century afterward? Could it all have been avoided by better statesmanship between blundering politicians as some historians have charged or was slavery a logjam that necessitated violent upheaval? Based on slavery’s continuing expansion as of 1860 and the plantation owners’ unwillingness to accept compensation, it seems that war was the only path to emancipation.
Federal Government Diagram, 1862, Masonic Temple of Cincinnati, Library of Congress
American Civil War Events of 1863
While the year began with President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, the war would be far more influenced by later events leading to the summer. Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded by friendly fire and Vicksburg finally fell to General Grant's multiple attempts to take it. Perhaps most importantly, the Battle of Gettyburg in Pennsylvania stood as the watershed moment of the whole conflict - a three-day clash that caused the most casualties in the war. The Union victory, now secured, ended any change that Confederate General Robert E. Lee would have in invading the North.
There are a total of (257) American Civil War Events of 1863 in the CivilWarTimeline.net database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last).
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect. The proclamation does not cover those slaves residing in states within the Union itself.
Union forces flee Galveston, Texas after a surprise attack by General Magruder and his men. The city is now firmly in Confederate control.
Union Navy forces move back into position around Galveston, Texas, ensuring the naval blockade stays in place.
The Battle of Stones River, also known as the Second Battle of Murfreesboro, comes to an end. It is a much-needed Union victory. Losses total 12,906 for the Union and 11,739 for the Confederates.
President Lincoln is at odds with General Grant on the topic of expelling Jewish merchants operating within Grant's military district. He calls on Grant to repeal the earlier expulsion order.
Springfield, Missouri is raided by a combined Confederate cavalry force led by General Marmaduke and Colonel Quantrill.
The Union Army claims Fort Hindman off the Arkansas River near Little Rock. Union Navy gunboats assist in the successful action.
USS Hatteras is sunk by CSS Alabama near Galveston, Texas.
The Confederate Congress begins another round of meetings in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.
Bayou Teche, Louisiana is site to another Union-versus-Confederate engagement. This action involves both land forces and gunboat support for the Union.
CSS Florida conducts various raids down the East Coast of the United States and beyond, her journey beginning in the port-city of Mobile, Alabama.
Union forces, under the leadership of General Burnside, attempt a surprise offensive against General Lee's army in Virginia. However, conditions are such that the march is aborted. It comes to be known as the "Mud March".
Confederate warships capture several Union vessels at Sabine Pass in Texas. This success alleviates the naval blockade for a time.
Union General Fitz John Porter is dishonorably discharged from the Union ranks for his conduct in the Second Battle of Bull Run.
Union General Joseph Hooker is released from service under General Burnside.
General Hooker is placed in charge of the Army of the Potomac - succeeding General Burnside. The assignment is handed down by President Lincoln himself.
A Confederate supply ship, Princess Royal, is intercepted by Union naval forces near Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.
General Ulysses S. Grant assumes command of Union forces near Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Union land forces, aided by the Navy, cut-off enemy supply lines running from North Carolina into Richmond, Virginia.
Union naval forces at Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, are defeated in a raid by CSS Palemetto State and CSS Chicora.
A Confederate attempt to retake Fort Donelson in Tennessee is thwarted.
After running aground in the Black River (Louisiana), USS Queen of the West is taken by Confederate forces.
USS Indianola is grounded by Confederate warships and taken over. The action takes place near Warrenton in Mississippi.
The Territory of Arizona is established by the American government. Fort Whipple is named its capital and John Goodwin its governor.
USS Indianola is blown up by Confederate forces.
CSS Rattlesnake (fmr CSS Nashville) is destroyed by Union warships at Fort McAllister near Savannah, Georgia.
To help strengthen Union numbers, the Enrollment Act (Civil War Military Draft Act), the first of its kind in U.S. history, is enacted. It covers those aged 20 to 45.
The U.S. government passes a resolution opposing foreign intervention in the bloody American conflict.
An honorary brevet rank award is established by the U.S. Congress.
The U.S. Congress declares the Medal of Honor award now open to officer-level persons.
After being denied a promotion, General Robert Toombs resigns his commission in the Confederate Army and turns on President Davis and his government.
In a two-day clash of cavalry forces at Thompson's Station, Tennessee, Confederate forces are victorious.
Detroit, Michigan is the scene of anti-black rioting.
Union General Edwin Stoughton is captured while asleep at Fairfax Court House in Virginia by Partison Rangers led by Confederate Lieutenant John Mosby.
The under-construction Union canal at Vicksburg, Mississippi is flooded out due to a levee break.
In an action at Greenwood, Mississippi, Union warships fail to neutralize Fort Pemberton.
The late Philip Kearny is honored by the establishment of the Kearny Cross award arranged for privates and non-commissioned officers.
Despite heavy damage, a Union fleet under the direction of Admiral Farragut gets by the confederate guns of Port Hudson in Louisiana.
Steele's Bayou Expedition is begun. The operation sees a combined Union force directed by General Grant and Rear Admiral Porter attempt to reach the rear of Vicksburg, Mississippi. The expedition would last until March 27th.
The Department of the Ohio now falls under the command of General Ambrose Burnside.
Confederate forces at Fort Pemberton block General Grant's passage along the Yazoo River in Mississippi.
Kelly's Ford, Virginia, is the site of a brief cavalry clash between both sides.
The New Jersey government calls for the U.S. to seek a peace with the Confederacy.
The Provost Marshall Department if created by the U.S. government. The department will head the military police and drafting of new personnel into the armed services.
Confederate General John Hunt Morgan begins a series of raids against Kentucky.
Brentwood, Tennessee and Franklin, Tennessee are raided by cavalry forces under the command of General Forrest.
The first Medal of Honor awards are handed out by the U.S. government.
The Confederate government moves to take civilian goods by force.
Union forces attempting to reach Vickerburg's rear are repulsed as part of Steele's Bayou Expedition. Union leaders included General Grant and Admiral Porter.
Confederate forces are beaten by the Union Army in Kentucky. Confederate General Pegram's forces are pushed back across the Cumberland River. The Union charge is led by General Quincy Gillmore.
Union warships stop a Confederate advance on Washington, North Carolina.
General Morgan completes his raids against the state of Kentucky.
CSS Georgia is commissioned for service into the Confederate Navy near Brest, France. The vessel was constructed in Scottish shipyards.
USS Alligator sinks while being towed near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Food riots break out in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.
It is revealed that thousands of Confederate prisoners have died in captivity at Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois.
Union ironclads engage the defenses at Fort Sumter but do not manage to break the will of the defenders.
USS Keokuk is lost following its previous day's participation in the engagement at Fort Sumter.
Franklin, Tennessee is raided by Confederate cavalry forces.
General James Longstreet takes on Union positions at Suffolk, Virginia.
Union Navy boats attempt to bypass the guns of Vicksburg through night time voyages.
General Benjamin Grierson of the Union Army undertakes a series of cavalry raids against Confederate positions beginngin at LaGrange, Tennessee.
Union forces are successful in claiming McMinnville, Tennessee.
Union forces are successful in driving back Confederate cavalry at Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Confederate forces are successful in driving back a Union navy attack at Grand Gulf, Mississippi.
General George Stoneman leads a series of cavalry raids across Virginia.
The "Invalid Corps" is established by the Union Army. It includes two classes of soldiers: those partially disabled and still in active service and those discharged due to a disability but still wanting to serve.
President Lincoln calls for a day of "Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer" amidst the growing, bloody years-long conflict between the North and South.
The Great Seal of the Confederate States of America is adopted by the South. It pictures George Washington on a white horse. Above him are the words "Confederate States of America: 22 February 1862. Below is the motto "Deo vindice" ("God as Our Champion").
The Battle of Chancellorsville begins in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Union forces are directed by General Hooker while the Confederates are led by general's Lee and Jackson. The Confederates number a much smaller force at just over 60,000 men. They face Union strength (Army of the Potomac) of over 130,000.
The Confederate congress adjourns their series of meetings in Richmond, Virginia.
Union troops are victorious at Port Gibson in Mississippi.
A new Confederate National Flag design is adopted by the government of the South.
Confederate General John Hunt Morgan's raiding actions are formally recognized by the Confederate Congress.
General Benjamin Grierson's cavalry raids against Confederate positions ends at Baton, Rouge, Louisiana.
A much smaller force of Confederate cavalry, led by General Forrest, captures Union cavalry raiders in Alabama.
Grand Gulf, Mississippi is evacuated.
General William Averell is replaced by General Joseph Hooker in the Union ranks.
General Grant arrives at Grand Gulf, Mississippi near Vicksburg.
The siege of Suffolk, Virginia, directed by Confederate General Longstreet ends.
With vocal and public opposition to to Lincoln's war, Congressman Clement Vallandigham (Ohio) is arrested.
The Battle of Chancellorsville is over as a Confederate victory. However, the Confederate Army is dealt a blow when it is revealed that Stonewall Jackson is mortally wounded (by friendly fire). Losses for both sides include 17,300 for the Union and 13,300 for the Confederates.
General Grant departs the Grand Gulf, Mississippi region.
General Stoneman's raids into Virginia end.
Confederate General Joseph Johnson is named commander of Mississippi forces.
General "Stonewall" Jaskson dies of complications related to wounds suffered days earlier at the Battle of Chancellorsville. The event is a major blow to the Confederate military cause.
Union forces outside of Jackson, Mississippi are victorious at Raymond (Battle of Raymond). General James McPherson is the commander of the Army of the Tennessee and heads a force 12,000 strong against 4,400 Confederates (under John Gregg). Losses are 446 Union to 820 Confederates.
Union forces reach Clinton, Mississippi.
General Grant captures Jackson, Mississippi (Battle of Jackson, Mississippi). Losses include 286 Union and 850 Confederates.
The Women's Loyal National League is formed, organized by Elizabeth Stanton. Its president is Susan B. Anthony. It is recognized as the first national women's political organization and seeks an amendment for the U.S. Constitution that officially abolishes slavery.
The Battle of Champion Hill (Baker's Creek) is a one-day engagement between the Army of the Tennessee under General Grant and the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana. Force strength includes 32,000 and 22,000 respectively. Losses amount to 2,457 and 3,840 respectively. It is a Union victory.
Confederate forces are pushed back over Big Black River in Mississippi.
The Confederate defenders at Vicksburg (Mississippi) repel a Union push.
Vocal war critic (and now disgraced U.S. Congressman) Clement Vallandigham is banished to the South by President Lincoln.
General Grant attempts, and fails, to take Vicksburg in a second offensive.
Vicksburg, Mississippi is besieged by Union forces.
Union forces fail to take Port Hudson in Louisiana.
The guns of Vicksburg aid in the sinking of USS Cincinnati.
General Jackson's old command is renamed "Stonewall Brigade" in his honor.
Operations of the Chicago Times is ordered stopped by General Burnside. President Lincoln steps in to reverse the order.
Former slave Harriet Tubman guides Union forces to raid Confederate plantations in the South Carolina Lowcountry. About 750 slaves are freed in the operation and these men strengthen Union numbers by joining their ranks. The raid is recognized as the Raid at Combahee Ferry.
The Battle of Milliken's Bend occurs. Confederate General Richard Taylor attacks a Union base at Madison Parrish, Louisiana. The attackers are driven off by a force led by commander Hermann Lieb. The result is a Union victory though casualties number 652 for the North.
French forces move in to secure Mexico City.
Confederate cavalry forces are victorious at Brandy Station, Virginia.
Confederate navy elements begin a period of raids against Union shipping along the American East Coast.
Confederate Lieutenant A. Wills Gould, an artillery officer under General Nathan Forrest, is stabbed to death by Forrest following Gould's attempt to kill him.
Winchester, Virginia falls to Confederate Cavalry under the command of General Richard Ewell.
CSS Atlanta is captured by Union warships at Wassaw Sound, Georgia.
Aldie, Virginia is the scene of a cavalry clash between North and South forces.
At the expense of the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry, Union forces are victorious in Middleburg, Virginia.
West Virginia is formally adopted as the 35th state of the United States.
Union forces are victorious is a clash of cavalry with the South. The Confederates are led by J.E.B. Stuart and the fighting takes place at Upperville, Virginia.
West Virginia, a breakaway territory of Virginia proper, becomes the 35th state in the Union.
Confederate forces are victorious at Brashear City, Louisiana.
Confederate navy forces conclude their raids against Union shipping targets along the northeast American coast.
Liberty Gap and Hoover Gap near Murfressboro, Tennessee are claimed by Union forces.
Despite an attempt by Union engineers to destroy the Vicksburg defenses from below, Vicksburg remains under Confederate control.
General William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, son to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, is captured by Union forces in Hanover, Virginia.
Union forces capture Confederate navy elements off the coast of Portland, Maine.
General Joseph Hooker of the Union Army tenders his resignation from the Army of the Potomac due to a dispute with Army HQ on the status of the defense at Harpers Ferry. The resignation is accepted by President Lincoln.
General George G. Meade replaces General Joseph Hooker in charge of the Army of the Potomac.
General George G. Meade succeeds the resigned General Joseph Hooker at commander of the Army of the Potomac.
Union defenders at Fort Butler in Donaldsonville, Florida are victorious against attacking Confederate forces.
George Armstrong Custer is named General within the Union ranks. At the age of just 23, he becomes the youngest general of the Army during the war.
The route to Chattanooga is threatened when Confederate General Bragg is forced to abandon his positions in northern Tennessee.
Attacking Confederate cavalry forces, led by General Stuart, are repelled by a Union counterattack. The clash takes place at Hanover, Pennsylvania.
Confederate forces, at brigade strength, tangle with Union elements in Gettysburg in the hopes of securing supplies.
West Virginia officially becomes a supporter of the Union cause in the Civil War and commits its resources to the conflict
In the northwest of Gettysburg, at Marsh Creek at about 5:30AM, the first shots of the Battle of Gettysburg are fired between Confederate and Union forces.
At 8:00AM, Confederate forces - as part of General Henry Heth's division - under the direction of General James J. Archer and General Joseph R. Davis march on Gettysburg.
At 10:00AM, during the fighting at Gettysburg, Union General John F. Reynolds is killed.
General Abner Doubleday succeeds General Reynolds following the latter's death.
General Solomon Meredith's "Iron Brigade" repels General Archer's Confederates and captures Archer and a few hundred others.
At 12:00PM, Major General Oliver O. Howard of XI Corps arrives.
Confederate guns open up from Oak Hill at around 12:00PM.
At 2:00PM Major General Robert E. Rodes moved his troops against the Union right flank.
At 2:00PM, Union General Meade calls on General Winfield S. Hancock to succeed the slain General Reynolds.
Upon arriving on scene at about 2:30PM, General Robert E. Lee surveys the battlefield from Herr Ridge.
The division under the command of Union General Carl Schurz is routed at 2:30PM.
General Lee advances General Heth and William Dorsey Pender's forces. General Heth is wounded.
At 3:30PM General Schurz units retreat under attacks from General Jubal A. Early. Their retreat is through the town of Gettysburg itself.
At 4:00PM General Pender pushes Union forces to retreat into Gettysburg proper as well as into Cemetery Hill.
At 4:00PM, General Hancock arrives at Cemetery Hill.
At 4:30PM, Union forces retreat from Gettysburg and take up fortified positions at the town's south, in Cemetery Hill.
At 4:30PM, General Lee provides General Ewell with the option to attack Union forces at Cemetery Hill if an advantage can be had and maintained. Lee understands the Federal forces hold positions on high ground. Ewell does not move on the enemy - perhaps missing a tremendous opportunity to turn the tide of the battle on its first day.
General Daniel E. Sickles arrives and reinforces Union numbers.
By 6:30PM, the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg draws to a close.
Union engineers attempt a second demolition of Union defenses at Vicksburg, Mississippi. This attempt also fails to make progress.
Carlisle, Pennsylvania falls under an attack by General Jeb Stuarts cavalry forces.
At 4:00PM, Federal positions are assailed by Confederate elements at Little Round Top and Devil's Den. Devil's Den falls to the attackers but the defenders at Little Round Top hold out.
At 5:30PM, Wheat Field and Peach Orchard, Union-held named areas to the Southwest of Gettysburg, are attacked by forces under the command of General Lafayette McLaws.
The ownership of Wheat Field is changed some four times before General Sickle's forces are pushed to the base of Little Round Top. The defensive stand there holds off the Confederates however.
Union forces continue to hold primary positions though the Confederates claim some terrain against them - particularly at Cemetery Hills and Culp's Hill.
Confederate General John Morgan leads his cavalry forces on the first of several raids throughout Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. The raiding actions will run nearly a month.
Pennsylvania resident Ginnie Wade becomes the only civilian fatality of the Battle of Gettysburg when she is struck in the shoulder by a stray bullet while kneading bread dough in the kitchen. The bullet pierced her heart - most likely killing her instantly.
From 5:30AM until 10AM, Confederate forces make repeated attempts to unseat and drive off Union forces at Culp's Hill. Little ground is gained in the fighting.
At about 1:00PM, 140 guns of the Confederate side open up on Union positions.
About 80 Union artillery pieces respond to the Confederate cannon bombardment.
Union-held Seminary Ridge is attacked by forces under the command of General Pickett, General Pettigrew and General Trimble.
At 3:30PM, General Stannard leads his Union troops against the side of General Pickett's charging division.
By 3:45PM, Confederate forces have advanced as much as they will in the battle as Union lines hold.
General Farnsworth and his cavalry forces suffer considerable losses against the Confederate lines - the charge called by General Kilpatrick against General Longstreet's position southwest of Big Round Top.
At the age of 26, cavalry General Elon J. Farnsworth is killed at the Battle of Gettysburg after a cavalry charge led by General Kilpatrick. Farnsworth protested the action but obeyed nonetheless.
At the end of the battle to control Gettysburg (a decisive Union victory), over 57,000 persons became casualties, many wounded, with 23,055 belonging to the Union lines and as many as 28,000 suffered by the Confederacy. Wounded number over 25,000 combined. The Confederacy suffered mightily in terms of officer-level depletion.
Vicksburg, Mississippi finally surrenders to General Grant and his Union forces. Some 30,000 prisoners are granted release with the promise not to engage the Union militarily again.
Union defenders hold off a Confederate attempt to retake Helena, Arkansas. The Confederates are led by General Theophilus Holmes and the price to take Helena is high for the attackers.
Former U.S. President Franklin Pierce delivers a speech in Concord, New Hampshire reminding listeners of the value of liberty in the ongoing conflict which has seen the American military grow in strength and influence.
A besieged Union cavalry force at Bardstown, Kentucky surrenders to Confederate attackers.
Port Hudson, Mississippi is given up by Confederate defenders after a siege lasting six long weeks. This gives the Union a vast amount of control concerning the Mississippi waterway.
Jackson, Mississippi is under siege from forces directed by Union General William Sherman.
Charleston, South Carolina is under bombardment from Union naval and land forces. Ironclads are directed by Admiral John Dahlgren.
Union forces at Jackson, Mississippi, attempt to overtake Confederate positions but are heavily repulsed. General Jacob Lauman directs the unsuccessful Union charge.
Union forces take Yazoo City, Mississippi.
The North and South will no longer adhere to the prisoner exchange agreement from earlier in the war.
General John Morgan's Confederate cavalry is spotted just north of Cincinnati, Ohio during one of his many raiding actions in Union territory.
Over a dozen civilians are killed during rioting in New York after the release of names from the first Union military draft. The rioting spans July 13th until July 16th and involves some 50,000 New Yorkers.
Confederate forces belonging to General Robert E. Lee cross the Potomac River.
The Department of Virginia and North Carolina is created by the Union.
With Jackson, Mississippi fallen to Union forces, General Joseph Johnson's Confederate forces abandon the area.
The Mississippi River waterway is firmly in control of Union forces.
Union forces fail to take Fort Wagner. near Charleston, South Carolina. The 54th Massachusetts Regiment taking part in the attack is made up of Negro soldiers, the first of its kind for the Union Army.
The Confederate's Army of Mississippi cavalry forces command is given to General Joseph Wheeler.
General John Morgan and his raiding cavalry forces are taken prisoner by Union elements near New Lisbon, Ohio.
The Order of Retaliation is handed down by President Lincoln. The measure calls for the execution of one Confederate soldier for every one Union soldier killed in violation of the rules of war.
The Union's Army of the Potomac numbers 75,000 men by this date, outpacing that of the Confederate's Army of Northern Virginia which claims just 41,000 to its ranks.
A Union prison camp is opened at Point Lookout, Maryland.
General Bragg's forces successfully evade Union capture when they cross the Cumberland Mountains.
USS Commodore Barney is the recipient of a Confederate electrically-powered torpedo. The incident is recorded at Dutch Gap, Virginia. While not sunk, the Barney is severely damaged.
CSS Alabama docks near Cape Town, South Africa.
Abolitionist Frederick Douglas, a former slave, meets with President Lincoln.
Lawrence, Kansas is attacked by Captain William Quantrill. 150 men and boys are slaughtered in the action.
Union and Confederate cavalry elements meet one another at Rocky Gap outside of White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia. The clashes last until the 27th.
CSS Hunley, a Confederate submarine, sinks in Charleston Harbor waters (South Carolina) while undergoing diving actions.
Lexington, Kentucky is taken by confederate forces under the command of General Edmund Kirby.
Knoxville, Tennessee is taken by General Burnside of the Union Army.
Union General Ulysses S. Grant is injured after being thrown by his horse. The incident takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana.
CSS Florida enters French waters off the coast of Brest.
Under pressure from a Union bombardment, Confederate forces relocate from Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.
Union warships fail to take Fort Grisby in Texas from Confederate defenders.
Union gunboats fail to defeat Confederate forces at Sabine Pass (Texas). Two of the three attacking warships are taken by the South.
A night time Union naval attack fails to retake Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The attack is directed by Admiral John Dahlgren.
Cumberland Gap, Tennessee is claimed by Union forces. Confederate defenders surrender.
General Rosecrans directs a capture of Chattanooga, Tennessee forcing Confederates to withdraw. The Confederate forces are led by General Bragg.
Following a Confederate withdrawal at Little Rock, Arkansas, Union forces move in. General Frederick Steele is the commander for the North.
Culpepper, Virginia is the site of a cavalry face-off between North and South.
The Battle of Chickamauga begins pitting Northern forces led by General Rosecrans against Southern forces led by General Bragg. The North commits about 60,000 souls to the South's 65,000. The battle lasts two days and covers the counties of Catoosa and Walker in Georgia.
Confederate forces, in one of the rare meetings where they outnumbered Union forces, claim the victory at the Battle of Chickamauga. Union elements collapse and are pushed away in the stunning defeat.
Another face-off between cavalry forces is witnessed at Rockville, Maryland.
The Battle of Chickamauga ends as a Confederate victory. General Rosecrans forces are pushed out of Georgia and retreat to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Losses are 16,170 for the Union and 18,454 for the Confederacy.
A cavalry force under the command of Colonel Joseph Shelby heads into Missouri for raiding actions. The venture lasts two days.
"Thanksgiving Day" is formally announced by the United States government. It will be celebrated annually from then on.
Colonel Quantrill and his raiders take prisoner Union cavalry while dressed in Union garb and proceed to execute about 100. The action takes place near Fort Smith, Arkansas.
USS New Ironsides is attacked (by way of spar torpedo) by the submarine CSS David in Charleston, South Carolina waters.
Once again wearing Union uniforms, Quantrill and his raiders manage to surprise and kill another 63 Union personnel, this at Baxter Springs, Kansas.
Blue Springs, Tennessee is the site of clash between Union cavalry and Confederate forces. The result is a Confederate retreat into Virginia. The North is led by General James Shackelford and the South by General John S. Williams.
Union troops under General E.B. Brown at Arrow Rock, Missouri, are victorious over Confederate forces led by General Joseph Shelby.
CSS Hunley, the famous Confederate submarine, sinks again in Charleston waters. All aboard die in the accident.
Command of the armies of the West are handed to General Ulysses S. Grant by order of President Lincoln.
Confederate General Jeb Stuart and his cavalry forces are victorious over Union elements at Buckland Mills, Virginia. The action is remembered as the "Buckland Races". Union elements are commanded by General Hugh Kilpatrick.
After the events of Chickamauga, Union General William Rosecrans is relieved of his command. He is succeeded by General George Thomas.
General Grant writes from Louisville, Kentucky "Hold Chattanooga at all hazards, I will be there as soon as possible." He would arrive in southeast Tennessee four days later.
Confederate attackers are victorious over Union defenders at Philadelphia, Tennessee. Several hundred are taken prisoner.
The attack on Chattanooga is planned by Union authorities including General Grand and General Rosecrans.
The battle of Wauhatchie begins pitting XI and XII Corps of the Union against General Longstreet's Corps and Jenkin's Brigade. The battle will span into the 29th of October.
A copy of the Emancipation Proclamation is auctioned off for $3,000 for charity.
The Gillmore Medal is announced by General Quincy Gillmore of the Union Army. This award serves to recognize those having attempted to retake Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor.
The Battle of Wauhatchie concludes as a Union victory. Losses total 420 for the North and 408 for the South.
Henry Allen, a General in the Confederate Army, is named governor of Louisiana.
Union forces form up at Brazos Santiago, Texas near the Mexican border.
This date marks the start of the Battle of Brownsville (Texas). General Banks leads the Union against Mexican Patriots led by former Confederate Generals.
Union troops move into Brownsville, Texas, expanding their foothold in the Confederate state.
The Battle of Brownsville ends as a Union victory.
Union forces are victorious at Rappahannock Bridge in Virginia. The attack involves a rare bayonet charge in the evening hours.
The Signal Corps is ordered to move its equipment to the Military Telegraph Service.
Pope Pius IX receives Confederate representative Colonel A. Dudley Mann at the Vatican. The visitor brings with him a letter penned by Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Union elements take Aransas Pass in Texas.
Confederate General Longstreet and his army force a retreat of Union elements (namely cavalry). The Union Army relocates to the safety of Knoxville, Tennessee but a siege is ordered to bring the enemy to surrender.
The Gettysburg Address is delivered by President Lincoln on the battlefield itself. It becomes one of the most revered and iconic speeches in American history despite its rather short length. The speech serves to dedicate the Soldier's National Cemetery in Gettysburg proper.
Confederate forces are driven from Fort Esperanza in Matagorda Bay, Texas.
The Battles for Chattanooga take place from November 23rd to NOvember 25th. Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and Rossville Gap are some of the names associated with the actions. General Grant faces General Bragg and his Army of the Tennessee.
The Chattanooga Campaign comes to a close and is recorded as a Union victory, further enhancing General Grant's growing legacy in the war.
With Confederate forces in retreat from Chattanooga, Union Generals Sherman and Hooker follow in an attempt to smash the enemy.
Union General Meade and his forces move to tackle the forces of General Less at Mine Run, Virginia. The Battle of Mine Run ensues and spans from November 27th until December 2nd. Union strength numbers 81,000 against a Confederate Army of 48,000.
Prisoner General John Morgan and six associates dig their way to freedom from an Ohio prison.
Confederate attackers are forced back by Union defenders at Fort Sanders near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Results of the Battle of Mine Run are inconclusive. Casualties amount to 1,272 Union losses and 680 Confederate.
Robert E. Lee's former estate at Arlington, Virginia, is dedicated as Freedman's Village to serve as home to some 1,100 former slaves.
Confederate forces leave their siege of Knoxville and exit the state. This grants Union forces complete control of the Confederate territory.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis addresses his congress as the Southern cause reaches a low point following the loss of Chattanooga.
President Lincoln calls on church-goers to thank God for the Union victory at Chattanooga.
The Union steamer USS Chesapeake is taken over by Confederate soldiers in civilian clothing. The brazen action takes place off the Massachusetts coast. The vessel is relocated to Canadian waters of Nova Scotia.
The Proclamation of Amenesty and Reconstruction is issued by President Lincoln. The measure is part of Lincoln's plan for reunification and provides pardons to Confederates willing to take an oath of loyalty to the United States of America.
In an address to Congress, President Lincoln reveals that around 100,000 former slaves have joined the Union ranks in the fight against the South.
Pope Pius IX acknowledges Jefferson Davis as the "President of the Confederate States of America" in a return letter.
The Georgia State Line militia is arranged.
A Confederate attempt fails against Union cavalry elements at Bean's Station, Tennessee forcing General Longstreet to rearrange his subordinate command.
Peace Party (American Civil War)
Since the beginning of the American Civil War, there were a percentage of North Carolinians who were Unionists or who wanted peace. Peace advocates were not necessarily Unionist in spirit. Most did not necessarily want peace because they loved the Union they instead reacted to wartime circumstances and wished to preserve the antebellum status quo.
There had been dissidents among North Carolinians since the war&rsquos beginning, but the Peace Now Movement started evolving in 1863, when Democrat James Leach, who later served in the Confederate Congress from 1864 to 1865 and in the U.S. Congress from 1871 to 1875, asked for what he called an &ldquohonorable peace.&rdquo Others adopted his plan: give up Southern independence for peace and reunion so that the antebellum status quo might be preserved. Like Randolph County native James Leach and the North Carolina Standard editor and later Reconstruction Governor, William W. Holden, many Peace Party members undermined the Confederate war effort to secure their personal interest. &ldquoWe favor peace,&rdquo wrote Holden in July 1863, &ldquobecause we believe that peace now would save slavery, while we very much fear that a prolongation of the war will obliterate the last vestige of it.&rdquo Peace Party members were not abolitionists, and were not even anti-slavery/free-soilers.
During Autumn 1863, political rallies held across the state produced the Peace Party and William W. Holden emerged as its leader. Holden had been a political ally of Governor Zebulon Vance, but his participation in the Peace Party placed him at odds with the state&rsquos executive. According to historian William Auman, Vance considered Holden&rsquos transforming politics and the peace movement to be &ldquodangerous and subversive.&rdquo Although initially Holden&rsquos political ally, Vance held different views regarding the matter: &ldquoBelieving the only hope of the South depended upon the prosecution of the war at all hazards and to the utmost extremity so long as the foot of the invader pressed Southern soil, I took the field at an early day, with the determination to remain there until an independence was achieved. My convictions in this regard remain unchanged.&rdquo
In Fall 1863 and Winter 1863-1864, the Peace Party became a political force. Many peace now supporters offered shelter to deserters, who fled to the central Piedmont and formed armed bands. In the fall of 1863, candidates expressing elements of the Peace Party platform were victorious in 6 out of 10 Confederate Congressional elections in North Carolina. In 1864, Holden&rsquos unsuccessful gubernatorial bid, however, proved that the majority of North Carolinians wanted Confederate victory and not an &ldquohonorable peace&rdquo the Peace Party candidate won only approximately 13% of the military vote (1,824 out of 15,033 votes) and received little over 24% of the overall vote (14,432 out of 57,873). According to Auman, Holden&rsquos defeat and the military suppression of armed deserters in the Piedmont &ldquodelivered the death blow to the peace movement in Confederate North Carolina.&rdquo
William Auman, &ldquoPeace Movement,&rdquo in William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2006) John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 1963) Norman D. Brown, Edward Stanly: Whiggery&rsquos Tarheel &ldquoConqueror&rdquo (Tuscaloosa, 1974) Michael Hill, ed., The Governors of North Carolina (Raleigh, 2007).
Events Before the War
Harpers Ferry Raid (October 16, 1859) - Abolitionist John Brown attempts to start a slave rebellion by taking over the Harpers Ferry arsenal. The uprising is quickly put down and John Brown is hanged for treason. Many people in the North, however, consider him a hero.
Abraham Lincoln Elected President (November 6, 1860) - Abraham Lincoln was from the northern part of the country and wanted to put an end to slavery. The southern states didn't want him president or making laws that would affect them.
South Carolina Secedes (Dec. 20, 1860) - South Carolina became the first state to secede, or leave, the United States. They decided to make their own country rather than be part of the USA. Within a few months several other states including Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana would also leave the Union.
Jefferson Davis by Matthew Brady
The Confederation is formed (Feb. 9, 1861) - The southern states form their own country called the Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis is their president.
Abraham Lincoln becomes President (March 4, 1861) - Now that President Lincoln is in office, he wants to restore the Union. In other words, get all the states back into the same country.
American Civil War Timeline 1863 - History
|Chancellorsville Battlefield on May 1 - 2|
|(Click to Enlarge Map)|
Morale in the Federal Army of the Potomac rose with the appointment of Joseph Hooker to command. Hooker reorganized the army and formed a cavalry corps. He wanted to strike at Lee's army while a sizable portion was detached under Longstreet in the Suffolk area. The Federal commander left a substantial force at Fredericksburg to tie Lee to the hills where Burnside had been defeated. Another Union force disappeared westward, crossed the Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers, and converged on Fredericksburg from the west. The Federal cavalry would open the campaign with a raid on Lee's line of communications with the Confederate capital at Richmond . Convinced that Lee would have to retreat, Hooker trusted that his troops could defeat the Confederates as they tried to escape his trap.
On April 29, Hooker's cavalry and three army corps crossed Kelly's Ford. His columns split, with the cavalry pushing to the west while the army corps secured Getmanna and Ely's fords. The next day these columns reunited at Chancellorsville . Lee reacted to the news of the Federals in the Wilderness by sending General Richard H. Anderson's division to investigate. Finding the Northerners massing in the woods around Chancellorsville Anderson commenced the construction of earthworks at Zoan Church . Confederate reinforcements under Stonewall Jackson marched to help block the Federal advance, but did not arrive until May 1. The Confederates had no intention of retreating as Hooker had predicted.
Hooker's troops rested at Chancellorsville after executing what is often considered to be the most daring march of the war. They had slipped across Lee's front undetected. To some the hardest part of the campaign seemed to be behind them to others, the most difficult had yet to be encountered. The cavalry raid had faltered in its initial efforts and Hooker's main force was trapped in the tangles of the Wilderness without any cavalry to alert them of Lee's approach.
April 26: Federal I and VI Corps cross the river and demonstrate against Lee's Fredericksburg defenses
April 27: Federal V, XI and XII Corps concentrate, preparing to move upriver.
April 29: Federals cross, Kelly, Ford against slight opposition before splitting their columns.
April 29. Meade's V Corps secures Ely's Ford during the evening.
April 29: Howard's XI Corps and Slocomb's XII Corps cross Germanna Ford during the evening.
April 30: Sykes Division of V Corps uncovers U.S. Ford for the two Federal corps to cross.
April 30: Hooker reunites, the right wing of the Army of the Potomac .
April 30: J.E.B. Stuart's Confederate cavalry clings to the Federal column, sending Lee information as to its strength.
April 30 - May 1: Lee divides his army, leaving Early at Fredricksburg while the remainder moves toward Chancellorsville .
May 1-6, 1863
|Chancellorsville Timeline Battle Map, May 1 - 6|
|Chancellorsville Battlefield on May 3|
|(Click to Enlarge Map)|
To retain the initiative, Lee risked dividing his forces still further, 'retaining two divisions to focus Hooker's attention, while Stonewall Jackson marched the bulk of the Confederate army west across the front of the Federal line to a position opposite its exposed right flank. Jackson executed this daring and dangerous maneuver throughout the morning and afternoon of May 2. Striking two hours before dusk, Jackson 's men routed the astonished Federals in their camps. In the gathering darkness, amid the brambles of the Wilderness, the Confederate line became confused and halted at 9 p.m. to regroup. Riding in front of the lines to reconnoiter, Stonewall Jackson was accidentally shot and seriously wounded by his own men. Later that night, his left arm was amputated just below the shoulder.
|Chancellorsville Battlefield on May 4|
|(Click to Enlarge Map)|
Chancellorsville is considered Lee's greatest victory, although the Confederate commander's daring and skill met little resistance from the inept generalship of Joseph Hooker. Using cunning, and dividing their forces repeatedly, the massively outnumbered Confederates drove the Federal army from the battlefield. The cost had been frightful. The Confederates suffered 14,000 casualties, while inflicting 17,000. Perhaps the most damaging loss to the Confederacy was the death of Lee's "right arm," Stonewall Jackson, who died of pneumonia on May 10 while recuperating from his wounds.
May 1, pm: Hooker's Federal army assumes a strong defensive position around Chancellorsville .
May 1, late pm: Lee receives news that hooker's left is weak, and plans an attack with Jackson for May 2.
May 2, 7:00 am-5:00 pm: Jackson marches 27,000 troops around Hooker while Lee keeps pressure on the Federals with the remaining 13,000.
May 2, 12:00 Noon-5:00 pm: Sickles III Corps attempts to attack Jackson 's column but tangles with Lee's force instead.
May 2, 5:15 pm: Jackson routs the Union XI Corps with a surprise attack.
May 2, 9:30 pm: Jackson is accidentally shot by his own troops, command passes to J.E.B Stuart.
May 3, 5:00-10:00 am: Lee and Stuart reunite after a desperate morning of punishing frontal attacks.
May 3, 12:30 pm: Lee is diverted from attacking Hooker's last line by an urgent message from Early at Fredericksburg .
May 3-4: Lee blocks Federal advance and counterattacks. Meanwhile, 4 miles east, Sedgwick's VI Corps captures Early's defenses and set out for Chancellorsville .
May 6: Hooker retreats across the river before Lee can attack.
Source: James M. McPherson, The Atlas of the Civil War
Recommended Reading : Chancellorsville , by Stephen W. Sears. Description: Chancellorsville was one of the Civil War's pivotal campaigns, a great victory for the South that also led directly to the death of top Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. It hasn't generated the amount of literature devoted to most major Civil War battles, largely because John Bigelow's 1910 classic, The Campaign of Chancellorsville, seemed for years to offer the last word. But Sears, employing a mix of published and unpublished primary accounts to buttress secondary studies, manages to offer more than one new word in a thoroughly engaging text. Continued below.
Civil War Timeline
States versus Fedral rights.The thirteen states formed a loose confederation with a very weakl fedral government . They felt that the states should still have the right to decide if they were willing to accept certain fedral acts. However, proponets such as John C Calhoun fought vehemently for nullification. When nullification would not work and states felt that they were no longer respected, they moved towards secession.
The Monitor vs MerrimackBoth ships were fighting but neither one could get another to sink.
Battle of FredrickburgThe Confederates were entrenced on a number of hills and had an advantage over the Union
Battle of GettysburgIt was a 3 day battle primarly won by the Conferates until the last day which was led by General Picett the Union which Lee made a dumb mistake which cost him the Battle
Battle of Bull Run SecondIn order to draw Pope's army into battle, Jackson ordered an attack ona Federal column that was passing across his front on the Warrenton Turnpike on August 28.
Battle of Shiloh40,000 Confederate threatend to overwhelm Ulysses S. Grants's entire command. Confederates surrounded the Union troops and captured, killed, or wounded most.
Battle at ChancellorsvilleLee divided his troops and won a huge vicotry over the Union but the Confederates shot their own General "stonewall" Jackson.He Died.
Battle of AntietamThe Army of the Potomac, under the command of George McClellan, mounted a series of powerful assualts against Robert E. Lee's forces near Sharpburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862.