Friday, November 22, 2013

April 28 - May 4, 1863

Compiled by Jim Hachtel, President
Gen. William T. Sherman Memorial Civil War Roundtable

April 28, 1863 - The U.S. Army establishes the Invalid Corps, providing meaningful light duty for soldiers unfit for active duty.

April 28, 1863 - General Hooker's Army of the Potomac moves into position around Chancellorsville, Virginia. General John Sedgwick holds his portion of the Army at Fredericksburg in an attempt to distract and contain General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia.

April 29, 1863 - Confederate General William E. Jones leads his cavalry through Buchanan, Virginia and captures the Union Depot there as well as 500 prisoners and 1500 horses.

April 29, 1863 - General Stoneman's Union Cavalry crosses the Rappahannock River into Virginia on a major raid. One brigade moves to destroy the Orange and Alexandria Railroad near Gordonsville, while the main body moves to destroy the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad. With only limited success, the move proved to be a poor use of cavalry when they could have been scouting the dense terrain north and northwest of Richmond.

April 29, 1863 - An elaborate feint to prevent Confederate reinforcements from shifting south toward Grand Gulf is carried out north of Vicksburg on the Yazoo River. At Haynes Bluff, a joint expedition of 22 gunboats, transports and mortar boats move up river.

April 29, 1863 - At Grand Gulf, Mississippi, Admiral David Porter's gunboat squadron bombards Confederate batteries for five hour, silencing them. Three vessels are damaged but all by-pass Grand Gulf and are now in position below Vicksburg.

April 30, 1863 - General Lee is surprised by General Hooker's rapid 30 mile march along the bank of the Rappahannock River, ending up behind Lee's position. Typically, Lee reacts boldly, dividing his force, leaving 10,000 men with General Jubal Early to guard Fredericksburg and marching 50,000 men to Chancellorsville Crossroad.

April 30, 1863 - General Grant continues to ferry the XIII Corps (McClernand) and XVII Corps (McPherson), a total of 23,000 men, to the Mississippi side of the river at Bruinsburg. These troops push several miles inland unopposed with Confederate attention on General Sherman's distractions at Haynes's Bluff. Grant later writes: "All the campaigns, labors, hardships, and exposures, from the month of December previous to this time, that had been made and endured, were for the accomplishment of this one object."

April 30, 1863 - The Great Seal of the Confederacy is approved. It shows George Washington and the motto "Deo Vindice" (God as our Defender).

May 1, 1863 - The first Confederate Congress, third session, adjourns. Major legislation included authorization for military tribunals to execute white officers commanding black troops and the execution of black troops. If not killed, return them to slavery.

May 1, 1863 - First contact of General Thomas J. Jackson's Army of Northern Virginia and Union pickets occurs near Chancellorsville. General Hooker moves his force back from clear, high ground, negating his advantage and artillery superiority. When General Lee arrives, he sends General Jackson on a flanking move around Hooker's right with 30,000 men while the 20,000 remaining men demonstrate to hold Hooker's attention. This is the second division on the Army of Northern Virginia in two days.

May 1, 1863 - General Grant moves to Port Gibson below Vicksburg, and attacks 8,000 Confederates, using General McClernand's 23,000 men. This engagement lasted from 6:00 AM until near sunset. The Confederates, led by General John S. Bowen, retreat, burning bridges behind them. Grant cuts his supply lines and communication, now moving quickly and unconstrained.

May 2, 1863 - At Chancellorsville, General Thomas J. Jackson moves his 30,000 men all night to circle the right flank of the Army of the Potomac. The right of the Union Army consists of General O. O. Howard's mostly German speaking XI Corps. Jackson attacks just as Howard's men are preparing dinner and Union resistance crumbles. Resistance soon stiffens and, in the confusion of darkness, men of the 18th North Carolina accidentally shoot General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson, severely wounding him and he was removed from leadership.

May 2, 1863 - Confederate General Ambrose P. Hill takes command of Jackson's II Corps but he is subsequently wounded and command is passed to General J. E. B. Stuart.

May 2, 1863 - General Grant continues his rapid movement and arrives at Edwards Station, 16 miles from Vicksburg. He cuts the Vicksburg and Jackson Railroad, isolating Vicksburg. Colonel Benjamin Grierson completes his 16 days of raids in Louisiana, all designed to cover General Grant's movement. Grierson is promoted to brigadier general.

May 3, 1863 - General Stuart mounts 50 cannons atop Hazel Grove and bombards General Hooker's position. Fighting, often confusing and terrible in the thickly wooded Wilderness area, results in retreat of General Hooker's Army. General Joseph Hooker was stunned by falling debris when a column on his headquarters house was struck by a cannon ball.

May 3, 1863 - General Robert E. Lee arrives to take command and he becomes aware that General John Sedgwick is advancing from Fredericksburg, behind his position. Lee leaves 20,000 men to contain Hooker and sends General Richard H. Anderson's division to meet General Sedgwick's force. This is the third division of Lee's Army.

May 3, 1863 - General Hooker orders Sedgwick's VI Corps to storm the heights at Fredericksburg, then attack the Army of Northern Virginia from the west. Two attempts to take Marye's Heights fail before Sedgwick orders a bayonet attack and General Jubal Early's forces are ejected from the position.

May 3, 1863 - Known as the "mule brigade," Colonel Abel D. Streight's command is surrendered to General Nathan B. Forrest at Ceder Bluff, Alabama. While outnumbered, Forrest constantly parades his small unit in front of Colonel Streight's men, convincing Streight that he is actually outnumbered.

May 3, 1863 - The CSS Alabama captures and burns the Union bark 'Sea Lark' off Brazil. She was carrying cargo estimated to value at least $500,000.

May 4, 1863 - The Battle of Salem Church, Virginia ends the struggle in and around Chancellorsville. The Federals withdraw toward the Rappahannock River and entrench. After several Southern attempts to dislodge them, General Lee calls off the action. Union Generals Joseph Hooker and John Sedgwick make plans to move beyond the Rappahannock.