This Week in the Civil War
- Article by: The Associated Press
- Associated Press
- December 28, 2012 - 8:01 AM
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Dec. 30: The Emancipation Proclamation, Fighting in Mississippi.
President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation takes effect on Jan. 1, 1863. This landmark document comes as a divided nation nears its third year of grinding, grueling warfare. The proclamation doesn't end slavery outright, but it declares that those held as slaves in the states in rebellion against the Union "are, and henceforward shall be free." The immediate effect is to make the nation's Civil War far more than a fight to restore the Union, transforming the scope of the conflict as a key step toward the eventual demise of slavery. The run-up to New Year's Day 1863 brings no pause in the fighting 150 years ago in the Civil War. On Dec. 26, 1862, Union divisions approaching from the Yazoo River crash into Confederate forces in swampy terrain as they embark on an audacious bid to seize the rebel-held city of Vicksburg, Miss. The fierce battle of Chickasaw Bayou, or Walnut Hills, erupts. When Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman orders his forces to advance, his units are thrust backward by the Confederate defenders. Sherman was hopeful of capturing Vicksburg outright, but the battle left heavy Union casualties and dashes any Union hopes of a swift victory. The fighting, however, augurs the start of the Vicksburg campaign, which would be renewed by the Union months later in 1863.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Jan. 6: Fighting in Arkansas.
The days of Jan. 9-11, 1863 witness fierce fighting in Arkansas, 150 years ago during the Civil War. There, Confederate forces arrayed along the Mississippi River at Fort Hindman harass Union river trade and shipping on the vital waterway. As 1863 opens, Union troops land nearby in a coordinated offensive and head toward the Confederate defenses, forcing the rebels back from their initial positions in trench works. Union vessels launch raking artillery fire at Fort Hindman, a prelude to an infantry attack. Ultimately on Jan. 11, 1863, the Confederate command surrenders. More than 6,500 dead, wounded or missing are reported in the wake of the Union victory in Arkansas County. But the offensive does little to aid Union commanders increasingly anxious to overrun Vicksburg, Miss., and gain a greater grip on the Mississippi River corridor. The Associated Press this week reports initial accounts of the fighting in Tennessee days earlier, at the outset of the New Year. AP reports federal troops have cleared rebel forces on the roads around Murfreesboro, Tenn., after fierce fighting and what was described by one correspondent as "a terrible slaughter." The fighting at the outset of 1863 comes as the nation gets set to enter its third year of the conflict.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Jan. 13. Arkansas skirmishing persists, troop movements reported in the East.
Skirmishes continue in Arkansas this week 150 years ago in the Civil War, a week after major fighting in the region. The skirmishing follows a Union victory over Confederate forces garrisoned at Fort Hindman in Arkansas during fighting Jan. 9-11, 1863. The skirmishing takes place in spots including Lick Creek and DeValls Bluff and Frog Bayou in the days after the major battle. But such small-scale engagements pose little significance in the larger scope of the war. Skirmishes would continue sporadically in Arkansas throughout the coming months of the war. Meanwhile, this week brings attention in the North to the fact that hundreds of thousands of soldiers are expected to finish their service and be eligible to leave the Union army by May. That report in Northern newspapers the second week of January prompts speculation in Richmond, Va., capital of the Confederacy, that the Union may seek to employ freed blacks for military service. Eventually in March 1863, President Abraham Lincoln will be prompted to sign his government's first Conscription Act. Also this week, Northern newspapers quote an Associated Press report as saying there are signs the Union's Army of the Potomac is again "in motion." The reports indicate Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside's troops are again afoot in northern Virginia. But details are sketchy and the report raises worries in the Confederacy that a renewed attempt may be afoot by the Union to advance toward Richmond.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Jan. 20: Aborted Union "Mud March." New commander for Army of the Potomac.
Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside attempts a winter offensive in the Virginia countryside, later dubbed the "Mud March," 150 years ago during the Civil War. It would go down in failure. The abortive military campaign was intended to boost the flagging morale of the Union's Army of the Potomac and restore Burnside's reputation after his bruising defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. The offensive began in mild weather on Jan. 20, 1863, but a night of heavy rain bogged down Union attempts to place a pontoon bridge across the Rappahannock River for troops and weapons to cross. Instead, Burnside's forces found themselves bogging down in mud along the riverbank amid rebel sniper fire and the campaign had to be called off. Many in the Army of the Potomac emerged demoralized and despairing after the latest failed campaign. And the grumbling of some of Burnside's officers reached the ears of President Abraham Lincoln, then desperate to find a military leader who could smash the Confederate army. In a matter of days, Burnside would be sacked, replaced by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker at the helm of the Army of the Potomac. The Associated Press reported on Burnside's departure Jan. 26, 1863, in which he saluted his officers and troops a last time at his headquarters. . Burnside acknowledged that while victory had not been gained on his watch, his forces had shown "courage, patience and endurance." He added to the troops: "Continue to exercise these virtues, be true in your devotion to your country, and the principles you have sworn to maintain. "
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