Monday, April 29, 2013

April 29, 1863

April 29, 1863

Grierson’s Raid: The Yankee raiders find that two columns of Confederate cavalry are converging upon them—Col. Wirt Adams, and Col. R.V. Richardson riding toward Brookhaven. Grierson decides that it is time to head south toward Baton Rouge rather than Grand Gulf.

Fredericksburg, Virginia: This morning, the Union troops of Gen Joyhn Reynolds’ I Corps crosses the Rappahannock south of the city on two pontoon bridges. He deploys his lines for battle, and Gen. Stonewall Jackson rides to Gen. Lee’s HQ to ask for orders. Lee then receives word that Oliver O. Howard his XI Corps of Yankees has crossed the Rappahannock, and is marching south toward the Rapidan River. What Lee does not know is that Slocum’s XII Corps is also crossing the Rappahannock, as is Meade’s V Corps. Couch’s II Corps is near the U.S. and Banks fords, preparing to cross. JEB Stuart and two brigades of gray troopers are west of Howard, at Culpeper Court House, and he only has news about Howard. By 3:30, the Federals are crossing the Rapidan at Germanna ford. Lee sends word to his troops to begin moving west toward these river crossings.

Battle of Grand Gulf, Mississippi – Gen. Grant sends Admiral Porter with eight gunboats to try the Rebel defenses, along with 10,000 of McClernand’s men on transports, prepared to land. They open fire at 8:00; AM. After some success, however, the naval force is unable to subdue the Southern fortifications there. The USS Benton is badly damaged, and so the flotilla withdraws to the west bank of the river again. The Navy suffers 18 dead and 56 wounded. Confederate Victory.

April 28, 1863

April 28, 1863

---Central VirginiaChancellorsville Campaign: Having camped near Hartford Church during the night, Hooker’s troops (V Corps, XI Corps, and XII Corps) continue their march in relative silence: the Confederates apparently have no idea that Hooker is stealing the march.  Howard’s XI Corps arrives near Kelly’s Ford by 4:30 PM.  A string of Federal pontoon boats arrive via the Rappahannock river, and are ready to cross the river by that evening.  The Federal infantry begins their crossing.

Hooker's original plan
Although Stoneman's cavalry has not taken up his disruptive post in Lee's rear, as per the original plan, Hooker has every confidence in the success of his planned move: so far, the Rebels are clueless. 
Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, USA, commander of the Army of the Potomac

---In the Vicksburg theater, Gen. Grant suggests that Sherman’s troops make a demonstration (i.e., an assault that is not expected to succeed) against Haynes Bluffs (near the place of his earlier defeat at Chickasaw Bluffs) in order to create a feint for Grant’s movement across the river south of Vicksburg.  Grant knows that such a feint will be interpreted by the American public as a military defeat, yet Sherman answers in this vein:

I will take, ten steamers and ten regiments, and go up the Yazoo as close to Haynes’ as possible without putting the transport under the rifled guns of the enemy. We will make as strong a demonstration as possible. The troops will all understand the purpose, and will not be hurt by the repulse.

The people of the country must find out the truth as they best can; it is none of their business. You are engaged in a hazardous enterprise, and, for good reasons, wish to divert attention; that is sufficient to me, and it shall be done. I will be all ready at daylight, and shall embark the men the moment Captain Breese notifies me he is ready.

Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, USA

---As he travels through Seguin and Gonzalez, Texas, Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle of Her Majesty’s Coldstream Guards makes observations in his journal about the traveling habits of Southerners:

. . . In the afternoon tobacco-chewing became universal, and the spitting was sometimes a little wild.

It was the custom for the outsiders [passengers who sat on the outside of the stagecoach] to sit round the top of the carriage, with their legs dangling over (like mutes on a hearse returning from a funeral). This practice rendered it dangerous to put one’s head out of the window, for fear of a back kick from the heels, or of a shower of tobacco-juice from the mouths, of the Southern chivalry on the roof. In spite of their peculiar habits of hanging, shooting, &c, which seemed to be natural to people living in a wild and thinly-populated country, there was much to like in my fellow-travellers. They all had a sort of bonhommie honesty and straightforwardness, a natural courtesy and extreme good-nature, which was very agreeable. Although they were all very anxious to talk to a European—who, in these blockaded times, is a rara avis—yet their inquisitiveness was never offensive or disagreeable.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

April 27, 1863

April 27, 1863

---Grierson’s Raid – On this date, Grierson’s raiders send a small detachment of troopers in Rebel butternut uniforms to seize the ferry crossing at the Pearl River.  The raiders then ride into Hazelhurst, where they sack the railroad yard and set a string of boxcars on fire.  The sparks spread to the houses in the town, and the Federal troopers find themselves fighting the fires alongside the townsfolk. 

Grierson makes the cover of Harper's Weekly

---On this date, by Hooker’s orders, the V, XI, and XII Corps are on the March toward the Rappahannock fords, and the Campaign is begun.

---Lt. Col. Fremantle continues his account of his travel:

I left San Antonio by stage for Alleyton at 9 P.M. The stage was an old coach, into the interior of which nine persons were crammed on three transverse seats, besides many others on the roof. I was placed on the centre seat, which was extremely narrow, and I had nothing but a strap to support my back. An enormously fat German was my vis-a-vis, and a long-legged Confederate officer was in my rear.

Our first team consisted of four mules; we afterwards got horses.

My fellow-travellers were all either military men, or connected with the Government.

Only five out of nine chewed tobacco during the night; but they aimed at the windows with great accuracy, and didn’t splash me. The amount of sleep I got, however, was naturally very trifling.

---Col. Elisha Franklin Paxton, a Virginian in the Army of Northern Virginia, writes home to his wife, filled with dark thoughts about the Confederate cause and his own spiritual condition:

The future, ever a mystery, is more mysterious now than ever before. Our destiny is in the hands of God, infinite in his justice, goodness and mercy; and I feel that in such time as he may appoint he will give us the blessings of independence and peace. We are a wicked people, and the chastisement which we have suffered has not humbled and improved us as it ought. We have a just cause, but we do not deserve success if those who are here spend this time in blasphemy and wickedness, and those who are at home devote their energies to avarice and extortion. Fasting and prayer by such a people is blasphemy, and, if answered at all, will be by an infliction of God’s wrath, not a dispensation of his mercy.

The future, as you say, darling, is dark enough. Though sound in health and strength, I feel that life to many of us hangs upon a slender thread. Whenever God wills it that mine pass from me, I feel that I can say in calm resignation, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” In this feeling I am prepared to go forward in the discharge of my duty, striving to make every act and thought of my life conform to his law, and trusting with implicit faith in the salvation promised through Christ. How I wish that I were better than I feel that I am; . . .  May God give me strength to be what I ought to be—to do what I ought to do! And now, darling, good-bye. When we meet again, I hope you will have a better husband— that your prayer and mine may be answered.

---Gen. Grant prepares to make a move on Grand Gulf, the proposed landing spot on the east bank of the Mississippi River, from where he might launch his land campaign against Vicksburg.


April 26, 1863

April 26, 1863

---Battle of Cape Girardeau, Missouri:  Brig. Gen. John Marmaduke of the Confederate Army led his force of 5,000 into southern Missouri.  He moves against the heavily-fortified river town of Cape Girardeau on the Mississippi.  After struggling though a swamp in a downpour, Marmaduke finally is able to deploy his troops, and launches a full frontal assault on the Federal works.  Defending is Union Gen. John McNeil and 4,000 Union troops from Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.  The Rebels, mostly Texas cavalry, make the charge mounted, and are mowed down by charges of canister and rifle volleys.  More charges and countercharges were made, and Marmaduke finally withdraws his shattered regiments.  Union Victory.

Losses:         Union – 12                          Confederate -- 325

---Grierson’s Raid – Grierson learns that the rebel Gen. Pemberton, in command in Mississippi, in a panic, has sent reinforcements to Jackson and all other points he can think of along Vicksburg’s supply line, he decides to carry a diversion.  The equivalent early a whole division of Rebels have been sent to chase after the Yankee raiders.  On this morning, Grierson decides to make a daring turn in his route, and dash in closer to Vicksburg, so he turns his column to the southwest, crossing the Leaf River and entering the town of Raliegh.  From there, they ride to Westville, where they stop for the night.


---Virginia:  Constant rains for the last two weeks have delayed Gen. Hooker’s scheduled plans for getting under way with his planned offensive:  To flank Lee and force him to come out of the Fredericksburg fortifications south into open country.  The rains have let up, and Hooker hopes to get his troops on the road by tomorrow, the 27th.  His plan---the V Corps under Meade, the XI under Howard, and the XII under Slocum, are to march upstream toward Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock just due east of Culpeper Court House, the II Corps under Couch to the U.S. ford near the confluence of the Rappahannock and Rapidan; the I (Reynolds), III (Sickles), and VI Corps (Sedgwick) would remain near Falmouth.  The idea was that the left wing under Sedgwick would make a demonstration across the river to threaten Fredericksburg and the right wing under Hooker would cross the fords, advance through the Wilderness, and get in Lee’s left rear to “turn” his line.  Hooker will have nearly 120,000 men in play against the Confederates, who number less than half of that.

Hooker's Planned Move
---James H. Gooding writes to the Mercury on the progress of the 54th Massachusetts, the new black regiment in training at Camp Reading:

The past week’s report of the 54th is encouraging, if not stirring. The number of recruits for the past week is 66 making a total of 740 men. Indeed, to see the men on dress parade, one would think there was a full regiment, when there is not more than 630, the balance being required for guard or fatigue duties. The most of the companies are now quite proficient in the manual of arms, and perform the evolutions with as much precision as a great many older troops. Soldiers and officers from other camps say they never thought it possible for men to learn in so short a time as much as these men have. The camp was visited by several members of the Legislature the past week, who expressed themselves highly pleased with the efficiency, discipline and cleanliness of the men; and one gentleman paid us a compliment by saying our barracks looked neater than those on the other side of the railroad. But the praise for that is due to Col. Shaw, whose quick eye detects anything in a moment out of keeping with order or military discipline. It is the best way to begin, saving a deal of trouble in the end; without order, the best men on earth would be worthless for military purposes.

Rev. Mr. Jackson is still with us, laboring for the soles, if the uppers are neglected — because there are men in this regiment who forget that there are other combs besides Combe on the understanding. Now Messrs. Editors, we want some more New Bedford men; if they don’t make up their minds very soon, the gate will be shut; every week the number wanted becomes less, and will our New Bedford men see those from other States earning their right to manhood? Where are all the loud orators, whose patriotic appeals said go to the war, we are with you? Come out, ye brave men, we want to see ye. And where, oh! where are the leaders of men? Why don’t they send one representative to the war? so they can say, “We filled our quota.” Don’t let the Journal of Commerce, and other powerful organs, have a chance to tell the truth about you, when they say “The colored man don’t know what’s good for him.” Rise up from your lethargy, and prove by your works that they know not what they say, or else — go and bag your heads.

---Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle, a British officer visiting the American war at the behest of the Crown, writes in his journal about his adventurous journey across Texas:

26th April (Sunday).—At 11.30 A.M., McCarthy drove me in his buggy to see the San Pedro spring, which is inferior in beauty to the San Antonio spring. A troop of Texan cavalry was bivouacked there.

We afterwards drove to the “missions” of San Jose” and San Juan, six and nine miles from the town. These were fortified convents for the conversion of the Indians, and were built by the Jesuits about one hundred and seventy years ago. They are now ruins, and the architecture is of the heavy Castilian style, elaborately ornamented. These missions are very interesting, and there are two more of them, which I did not see.

In the afternoon I saw many negroes and negresses parading about in their Sunday clothes—silks and crinolines—much smarter than their mistresses.

At 5 P.M. I dined with Colonel Bankhead, who gave an entertainment, which in these hard times must have cost a mint of money. About fourteen of the principal officers were invited; one of them was Captain Mason (cousin to the London commissioner), who had served under Stonewall Jackson in Virginia. He said that officer was by no means popular at first. I spent a very agreeable evening, and heard many anecdotes of the war. One of the officers sang the Abolition song, “John Brown,” together with its parody, “I’m bound to be a soldier in the army of the South,” a Confederate marching-song, and another parody, which is a Yankee marching-song, “We’ll hang Jeff Davis on a sour-apple tree.”

Whenever I have dined with Confederate officers they have nearly always proposed the Queen’s health, and never failed to pass the highest eulogiums upon Her Majesty.

Friday, April 26, 2013

April 25, 1863

April 25, 1863

---Col. Benjamin Grierson and his cavalrymen finish destroying Confederate stores and property in Newton Station. 

---The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that

"the War Committee waited on President Lincoln to induce him to inform England that the letting loose of the ten iron-clad war vessels now building in her harbors for the rebels will be considered a declaration of war upon us, and that, unless steps are taken at once to prevent further operations in that line, Lord Lyons be furnished his passports and that Charles Francis Adams be recalled.

It is urged upon the President that English vessels are now under the Rebel flag, sweeping our commerce from the seas, and that in less than ninety days a fleet of English iron-clad steamers, of most formidable character, will sweep away our blockading squadrons and open Rebel ports. Secretary Seward, however, hopes to settle the whole matter amicably, and fears that something may be done to offend England if we do not act with great caution and deliberation.

The President is incensed that Lord Lyons should have been plotting treason with the leaders of the opposition to the Government here in the National Capital, and unless something unforeseen occurs, the next four days will bring forth some of the most important movements in the whole history of the rebellion, as some deliberate policy must be adopted at once."

---Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle, of the Royal Army, writes in his journal of his trip across Texas:
25th April (Saturday).—San Antonio is prettily situated on both banks of the river of the same name. It should contain about 10,000 inhabitants, and is the largest place in Texas, except Galveston.
The houses are well built of stone, and they are generally only one or two storeys high. All have verandahs in front.
Before the war San Antonio was very prosperous, and rapidly increasing in size; but trade is now almost at a complete stand-still. All the male population under forty are in the military service, and many necessary articles are at famine prices. Coffee costs $7 a lb. . . . 
I dined with McCarthy and young Duff at 3 P.M. The latter would not hear of my paying my share of the expenses of the journey from Brownsville. . . .

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 24, 1863

April 24, 1863

---Gen. Grant is preparing the corps of both James McPherson and John McClernand to cross the Mississippi to Grand Gulf, and so orders up Porter’s gunboats to shell the fortifications there.  However, Porter’s intelligence reports indicate that Pemberton’s troops at this place number as high as 12,000, and that more heavy guns have been installed.  He calls off the bombardment. 

---David L. Day, a soldier in the 25th Massachusetts Infantry, in the western reaches of North Carolina, writes in his journal:  All Quiet on the Roanoke.

April 24. The noise of the battle is over and we are no longer harassed by war’s dread alarms, but can now sit down, eat our fresh shad and herring and drink our peach and honey in peace and quiet.

A Broker’s Office.

Our provost marshal, Major Bartholomew of the 27th Massachusetts, has opened a broker’s office, where he is exchanging salt and amnesty for allegiance oaths, and as this is the fishing season, he is driving a right smart business. The natives for miles around come in droves, take the oath, get their amnesty papers and an order for salt, and after being cautioned not to be found breaking their allegiance they go away happy. There are probably some honest men among them who would like to do about right if they dared to, but the whole thing looks ludicrous, for there is evidently not one in a hundred of them who would ever think of taking the oath were it not for the hope of obtaining a little salt. The boys call it the salt oath.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April 23, 1863

April 23, 1863

------Grierson’s Raid:  The main column rides into the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, near 10 o’clock at night.  The Yankee horsemen stop for the night.

---Eldridge B. Platt, an artilleryman in the 2nd Connecticut Light Battery, writes home about army life:

Wolfrun Shoals

April 23rd 1863

Dear Sister now I have got an opportunity I will write to you I got your leter Wednesday the 13th I am very glad to hear from you George and I enjoy good health and I hope you are the same. I should answerd your leter before but I have so much detale duty to do I could not get a chance I hant got much news to write we dont have very . . . . we have got some good weather finly but it is showery to do it will bring out the flowers like everything the peachtrees are all in full bloom they are bout the earliest flowers they is here I have ben off to see if I could find any flowers to send to you but i could not find any of any amount they will be some I think in a few days . . . . I dont think I dont think I am as fleshey as I was when I left home but I am fleshey enough now I have grown fleshey since George has ben cook I tell you he is a good one they could not put in a beter man in the batery. he says he likes it and they boys all like him we have plenty to eat and thats that is good for down here in the sunny south we had a beef stew for dinner and we are going to have aplesauce for super this morning I had some col boiled fresh beef . . .  I went down to the river and ketched some fish and I fride them for breakfast so I had good breakfast yesterday we had some beef stake and boiled ptatoes and coffee so you see how we . . . . do you have very many scholars now do you practice much on the dulcermar do you work in the same room as you did when I was there I cant think of any more to write this time pleas excuse bad writing and mistakes good bye for for this time

from your Brother

E B Platt

April 22, 1863

April 22, 1863

---Grierson’s Raid:  With the 7th and 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiments, Col. Grierson pushes further southward toward Louisville, Mississippi.  He detaches B Troop of the 7th Illinois, under Capt. Henry Forbes, to strike at the railroad in Macon, 30 miles to the east.  Grierson and the main column arrive at Louisville late in the day, and find the town boarded and shuttered to the Yankee arrival. 

---George Templeton Strong writes about the war, black troops, and his own thoughts, in his journal, while revealing a surprisingly astute understanding of the role of slavery in propping up the Southern state---and a surprisingly prescient speculation about the future progress of the war:

Then there is the great fact that Negro enlistments seem cordially approved by the Army at the West---at Cairo, Memphis, and elsewhere.  Black regiments are (or soon will be) adopted into the national army with as little objection to their color as would be made to the use of a corral of black horses captured from the rebels, and our consent to let niggers enlist and fight is a heavier blow to the rebels than the annihilation of General Lee’s army would be.

All these indications forbid us to despair of the republic.  But, unlike Seward, I expect no suppression of the rebellion with sixty or ninety days.  Nor do I desire it.  News of overtures of Jefferson Davis & Co. tomorrow would be worse than news of a grea crushing defeat suffered by Hooker, Grant, or Rosecrans.  There can be no stable equilibrium and permanent peace till the peculiar institutions of the South have been broken up and ground to powder, and to do this requires at least two more years of war, and perhaps a period of Southern success and invasion of Northern territory, stimulating the North to begin fighting in earnest, which it has not even yet begun to do.

Monday, April 22, 2013

April 21, 1863

April 21, 1863

---Grierson’s Raid – This afternoon, Hatch’s raiders reach the town of Palo Alto, and find a Confederate force there, the 2nd Tennessee Cavalry, under command of Lt. Col. C.R. Barteau, who drives Hatch back north to Okolona and Tupelo---but the Iowans destroy track as they go. Hatch has drawn away all Southern threat to Grierson’s rear, Grierson, with the two Illinois regiments, dashes southward, captures Starkville and burns a considerable stockpile of Confederate stores there. He detaches a battalion to Bankston, who find a vast store of leather goods---saddles, shoes, and other vital military goods---and destroys that.

—Admiral Porter attempts another run past the Vicksburg defenses, and succeeds at bringing over 20 transport vessels through.

—Pres. Lincoln signs a proclamation admitting West Virginia as the 35th State in the Union, effective June 20, 1863.

April 20, 1863

April 20, 1863

---Grierson’s Raid – On this date, 175 men who were ill or otherwise unfit to keep up the pace of the brigade were detailed out and sent back to La Grange, Tennessee. The riders in blue continued southward, however, leaving the Rebels confused as to whether they were retreating or advancing. Grierson takes the two Illinois regiments southward, and sends Col. Hatch with the 2nd Iowa on a parallel road to the east, in order to destroy the Mobile and Ohio Railroad at West Point, Mississippi.

Grierson's Raid

---Part of Gen. Banks’ Army of the Gulf is advancing along Bayou Teche, and there is fighting around Brashear City.

---Private Edwin Eldridge Mason, a new recruit in the new 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment, writes home:
Soldiers Retreat, Harrisburg, April 20, 1863
Dear Sister, This morning I received my uniform and my $29.
I bot 1 gold pen and pencil.                    $2.75
Inkbottle                                                         .25
3 oranges                                                        .10
1 Bible                                                             .85
1 knife                                                             .80
9 boxes Nycos [?] Pills                              2.00
Portfolio                                                         .50
1 quire paper                                                 .45
Pack envelopes                                             .12
Lead pencil                                                    .05
1 qt Brandy                                                    .75
Lint                                                               3.60
The gold pen I sent to Harmon & pills. Tonight at 3 o’clock I start for Washington. I am well tonight as usual and hope you are the same. I can’t get my likeness taken yet. I don’t know when I can. If you write to me direct to
Edwin E. Mason
Co. B, 12th Pa. Cav.
Winchester, Va.
O I sold my clothes for I had to go away at 3 tonight, and I couldn’t get into the Express office at night before I went away. I spoilt my coat and vest here and couldn’t get only $1 for the whole.

         Your affectionate Brother

        Edwin E. Mason

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 19, 1863

April 19, 1863

---Pres. Abraham Lincoln takes a steamer to Aquia Creek, Virginia, to meet with Gen. Hooker and discuss war plans.  Gen. Stoneman’s cavalry is still stuck at the crossings of the Rappahannock, and Hooker’s plans on hold, at the moment.

--- Grierson’s Raid:  Early this morning, Grierson’s columns ride into the town of Pontotoc, surprising the town’s garrison and routing it.  The stores and supplies of the town fall into their hands.  So far, the Union raiders have pushed over 70 miles into Mississippi without any serious opposition.

---Gen. John McClernand, at New Carthage, Louisiana, sends an urgent message to Gen. Grant for a dozen river transports, with which he promises an end to the war in the Gulf States, by enabling him to capture Grand Gulf, on the Mississippi shore of the river:

GENERAL: My present movement, if properly sustained, ought, and I believe will, eventuate in the extinguishment of the rebellion in the Gulf States, and limit it in the East.

Please give me a dozen good transport. They are necessary to enable me to move my forces rapidly, and to strike the enemy before he can fortify. . . . Without them, delay and approaching hot weather may ensue to jeopardize everything; without them, Grand Gulf may become another Vicksburg or Port Hudson. The loss of a few transports in running the blockade are not worthy to count anything in the opposing scale.

---George Templeton Strong writes in his journal about England and its sympathies:

We drift fast toward war with England, but I think we shall not reach that point.  The shop-keepers who own England want to do us all the harm they can and to give all possible aid and comfort to out slave-breeding and woman-flogging adversary, for England has degenerated into a trader, manufacturer, and banker. . . . It’s fearful to think that the sympathies of England---the England of Shakespeare and Hooker, Cowper, Milton, Somers, Erskine, and others . . . are guided more by mere considerations of profit and loss.

Friday, April 19, 2013

April 18, 1863

April 18, 1863

---Already looking forward to the next elections, the New York Times prints this editorial about the need to make sure soldiers at the front have the privilege of casting votes in the national elections.  There is a move to vote on this matter in the New York State legislature, but Governor Seymour has sworn to veto any such bill:

The Soldier’s Right to Vote.

We trust our State Legislature will lose no time in taking steps so to amend the Constitution as to permit citizens of the State, while absent in the military service of the nation, to [v]ote by proxy. The required amendment can be passed by this Legislature, — and also by the next; and can then be submitted to the popular vote soon enough to secure to our soldiers in the field the exercise of their right of suffrage in the Presidential canvass of November, 1864. It is due to them and to the country, that they should have this right: and the Union men of our Legislature should see to it that nothing is left undone which they can do to secure it to them.

Gov. SEYMOUR, in his recent Message to the Legislature, gives that body distinctly to understand that he shall veto a law conferring upon soldiers the right to vote except in person, in the election district where they reside. He regards such a law as unconstitutional. . . .

But the measure itself ought not to be defeated by the conflict of opinion between the Governor and the Legislature. The soldier should not be deprived of his right to vote in consequence of such a collision. If it can be secured to him by a simple law, very well; but if not, then let it be secured by an amendment of the Constitution. . . .

---At the same time Col. Benjamin Grierson’s cavalry brigade has set out for Mississippi, Gen. William Sooy Smith and a brigade of infantry leaves La Grange and marches southwest, another column of 5,000 leaves Corinth and marches east towards Tuscumbia, Alabama, and another column of troops leaves Memphis and marches eastward.  Col. Abel Streight, from Ft. Henry, rides out with a brigade of cavalry also, heading down toward northern Alabama.  All of these expeditions are to serve as smoke screens and diversions for Grierson’s Raid.

--- Grierson’s Raid:  Grierson, in command of three regiments---the 2nd Iowa Cavalry, under Col. Edward Hatch, the 6th Illinois Cavalry, under Col. Reuben Loomis, and the 7th Illinois Cavalry, under Col. Blackburn---arrive early today at Ripley, Mississippi, thirty miles into the state.  They proceed south to the Tallahatchie River, and skirmish with Rebel troops at the New Albany bridge.  Crossing at three points along the river, the blue horsemen compel the Rebels to fall back.  The Yankees ride on through the night.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 17, 1863

April 17, 1863

---Virginia:  Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker is amassing 133,000 Federal troops in the Army of the Potomac against Gen. Robert E. Lee’s 55,000 Confederates, and as Springtime flourishes and develops, thus ensuring the imminent movement of armies and campaigns, both commanders eye each other warily. 

---Gen. Stoneman’s cavalry raid, crucial to Hooker’s plan, has stalled.  After getting part of his force over the Rappahannock, Stoneman withdrew them back across the river, after his troopers have been sparring with Fitzhugh Lee’s Rebels.  Stuart’s rebel riders keep a close eye on all Yankee movements along the front.  The Federal ruse that Stoneman is headed to the Shenandoah Valley fails to entice the Rebels, who are keeping their station and watching Stoneman’s stymied foray.

Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, CSA

---Mississippi River:  About 12 noon, Admiral Porter’s squadron arrives at New Carthage, Louisiana.  Gen. McClernand, whose troops hold the area, find the burning hulk of the Henry Clay floating by, and three barges, two of which soldiers in small craft are able to recover.  They are loaded with coal and camp equipment and rations.  When Porter arrives, he cooperates with McClernand in sending the Tuscumbia to shell a Rebel position at Perkins’ Plantation, with McClernand’s troops pursuing by land.

Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter

The Running of the Guns
---Grierson’s Raid: On this date, Col. Benjamin Grierson, a piano teacher from Illinois, sets out with 1,700 troopers from La Grange, Tennessee for an extended raid down into Confederate-held Mississippi. 

Col. Benjamin Grierson

---John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the Confederate War Department, records a journal entry on a variety of issues, gossip, and worries about the scarcity of food in Richmond:

April 17th.—From the Northern papers we learn that the defeat at Charleston is called by the enemy a reconnoissance. This causes us much merriment here; McClellan’s defeat was called a “strategical movement,” and “change of base.”

We have some rumors to-day, to the effect that Gen. Hill is likely to take Washington and Newbern, N. C.; Gen. Longstreet, Suffolk; and Gen. Wise, Fort Magruder, and the Peninsula—he has not troops enough.

Gold advanced 7 per cent. in New York when the news of the “reconnoissance” reached that city.

We are planting almost every acre in grain, to the exclusion of cotton and tobacco—resolved never to be starved, nor even feel a scarcity of provisions in future. We shall be cutting wheat in another month in Alabama and other States. . . .                       

The President is in a very feeble and nervous condition, and is really threatened with the loss of sight altogether. But he works on; and few or no visitors are admitted. He remains at his dwelling, and has not been in the executive office these ten days. . . .

Pins are so scarce and costly, that it is now a pretty general practice to stoop down and pick up any found in the street. The boarding-houses are breaking up, and rooms, furnished and unfurnished, are rented out to messes. One dollar and fifty cents for beef, leaves no margin for profit, even at $100 per month, which is charged for board, and most of the boarders cannot afford to pay that price. Therefore they take rooms, and buy their own scanty food. I am inclined to think provisions would not be deficient, to an alarming extent, if they were equally distributed. Wood is no scarcer than before the war, and yet $30 per load (less than a cord) is demanded for it, and obtained.

The other day Wilmington might have been taken, for the troops were sent to Beauregard. Their places have since been filled by a brigade from Longstreet. It is a monstrous undertaking to attempt to subjugate so vast a country as this, even with its disparity of population. We have superior facilities for concentration, while the invader must occupy, or penetrate the outer lines of the circumference. Our danger is from within, not from without. We are distressed more by the extortioners than by the enemy. Eternal infamy on the heads of speculators in articles of prime necessity! After the war, let them be known by the fortunes they have amassed from the sufferings of the patriots and heroes!—the widows and orphans!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 16, 1863

April 16, 1863

---Vicksburg Campaign – Gen. Grant wants Admiral David D. Porter, commander of the Union squadron on the Mississippi River, to try to rush past the guns of Vicksburg again with three transports, so that the Federal army can march down the west bank of the river, and the transports can ship the troops to the east bank of the river, on dry ground, so they can approach the fortifications at last. Grant suggests sending two gunboats as escort, but Porter changes that to eight gunboats to ensure that the Queen of the West and the Indianola debacles are not repeated. Lashing the more vulnerable transports on the sheltered side of the ironclad gunboats, the flotilla heads downstream from the mouth of the Yazoo on a moonless night. At first, due to a ball being held in Vicksburg that night, many of the Confederate guns are not manned.

Running the Guns of Vicksburg - Porter's route

But as the shooting started, the ball empties, and officers report to their batteries. Soon, all 37 heavy guns on the bluffs were in action. Porter’s ships answered with 79 guns, as they steered for the eastern shore, hoping that the Rebel guns could not shoot low enough to hit the Yankee gunboats so close to the bluffs. In the confusion, several coal barges have to be cut loose, and the USS Henry Clay is hit and hammered into uselessness. The crew abandons ship. 

After another gunboat running aground and getting loose again, all but the Henry Clay and two other vessels manage to get past the fortress. As Porter docks at New Carthage, he discovers that he has only 12 men wounded. Now, Grant has the ships he needs to cross his army over to the same side as Vicksburg, on dry ground.

---A party of Dakota Indians attack a platoon of Union soldiers near Medalia, Minnesota, killing one and wounding two.

Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15, 1863

April 15, 1863

---Walt Whitman, the poet, writes to his mother in Brooklyn from Washington, where he spends his days looking after wounded and ill soldiers:

I spent three to four hours yesterday in Armory hospital. One of my particular boys there was dying—pneumonia—he wanted me to stop with him awhile; he could not articulate—but the look of his eyes, and the holding on of his hand was deeply affecting. His case is a relapse—eight days ago he had recovered, was up, was perhaps a little careless—at any rate took cold, was taken down again and has sank rapidly. He has no friends or relatives here. Yesterday he labored and panted so for breath, it was terrible. He is a young man from New England, from the country. I expected to see his cot vacated this afternoon or evening, as I shall go down then. Mother, if you or Mat was here a couple of days, you would cry your eyes out. I find I have to restrain myself and keep my composure—I succeed pretty well.

---Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle notes in his journal his meeting Gen. John Magruder, commander of the Department, as he travels across Texas:

15th April (Wednesday).—I slept well last night in spite of the tics and fleas, and we started at 5.30 p.m. After passing a dead rattlesnake eight feet long, we reached water at 7 a.m.

At 9 a.m. we espied the cavalcade of General Magruder passing us by a parallel track about half a mile distant. . . . I galloped up to the front, and found the General riding with a lady who was introduced to me as Mrs ——, an undeniably pretty woman, wife to an officer on Magruder's staff, and she is naturally the object of intense attention to all the good-looking officers who accompany the General through this desert.

General Magruder, who commands in Texas, is a fine soldierlike man, of about fifty-five, with broad shoulders, a florid complexion, and bright eyes. He wears his whiskers and mustaches in the English fashion, and he was dressed in the Confederate grey uniform. . . . He is a Virginian, a great talker, and has always been a great ally of English officers. . . . I had a long and agreeable conversation with the General, who spoke of the Puritans with intense disgust, and of the first importation of them as "that pestiferous crew of the Mayflower;" but he is by no means rancorous against individual Yankees. He spoke very favourably of M'Clellan, whom he knew to be a gentleman, clever, and personally brave, though he might lack moral courage to face responsibility. Magruder had commanded the Confederate troops at Yorktown which opposed M'Clellan's advance. He told me the different dodges he had resorted to, to blind and deceive the latter as to his (Magruder's) strength; and he spoke of the intense relief and amusement with which he had at length seen M'Clellan with his magnified army begin to break ground before miserable earthworks, defended only by 8000 men.