10 Moments That Shaped the Civil War
- January 1 — The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in rebellious states and territories.
- January 29 — General Ulysses S. Grant was placed in command of the Army of the West.
- May 6 — General Robert E. Lee led Confederate forces to victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
- May 10 — General Stonewall Jackson died from wounds suffered during a scouting mission at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
- May 14 — Union forces won the Battle of Jackson, an important Confederate transportation hub.
- May 18 — Union forces started siege operations at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
- May 28 — The first black regiment in the Union Army, the 54th Massachusetts, left Boston to join the war.
- June 3 — In need of food and supplies, General Robert E. Lee launched his Second Invasion of the North.
- June 9 — The Battle of Brandy Station, the largest cavalry battle of the war, took place in Virginia.
- June 20 — West Virginia was admitted to the Union.
January 1 — Emancipation Proclamation
States and Territories in Rebellion — The Emancipation Proclamation took effect. It declared enslaved people in territories considered to be in rebellion against the United States to be free, authorized the enlistment of black troops, and outraged pro-slavery Southerners. It was an important turning point in the war, shifting the goal from simply restoring the Union, to restoring the Union without slavery.
January 1 — Galveston, Second Battle
Texas — On November 29, 1862, General John B. Magruder, a Confederate commander in Texas, prioritized recapturing Galveston. At 3:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day, 1863, 4 Confederate gunboats approached Galveston Bay. Soon after, Confederates launched a land attack.
Union forces in Galveston were 3 companies from the 42nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, led by Colonel Isaac S. Burrell. The Confederates captured or killed most of them, sparing only the regiment’s adjutant. They also seized Harriet Lane and two other ships by boarding them.
Commander W.B. Renshaw’s flagship, U.S.S. Westfield, was grounded while assisting Harriet Lane and deliberately destroyed to prevent capture. Galveston returned to Confederate control, although Union ships continued to blockade the harbor.
January 8 — Springfield, Second Battle
Missouri — General John S. Marmaduke’s Missouri expedition reached Ozark, and destroyed a Union post. On January 8, 1863, it approached Springfield, a Union communications and supply center. The Confederates aimed to destroy it.
The Union had built defenses, but their numbers were low because Francis J. Herron’s divisions were absent after their December 7 victory at Prairie Grove. Upon learning of the Confederate approach on January 7, General Egbert B. Brown prepared for the attack and gathered more troops.
Around 10:00 a.m., the Confederates launched the assault. The day saw intense combat with multiple attacks and counterattacks until nightfall. The Federal forces held their ground, and the Confederates retreated during the night.
General Brown sustained injuries during the day. The Confederates reappeared the next morning but chose not to attack and withdrew. The supply depot remained secure, and Union presence in the area continued.
January 9 — Arkansas Post
Arkansas — Confederates from Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post had disrupted Union shipping on the Mississippi River. To counter this, General John McClernand led a combined force to capture Arkansas Post.
On January 9, 1863, Union boats disembarked troops near Arkansas Post, advancing toward Fort Hindman. Troops from the command of General William T. Sherman seized Confederate trenches, forcing the Confederates to retreat to the fort and nearby rifle pits.
On the 10th, Rear Admiral David Porter moved his fleet toward Fort Hindman, bombarding it before withdrawing at dusk. Union artillery across the river fired at the fort on the 11th, and infantry moved into position to attack. Union ironclads shelled the fort, and Porter’s fleet blocked escape routes.
This envelopment, along with McClernand’s assault, led to the Confederate surrender in the afternoon. Although Union casualties were significant and the victory did not aid in capturing Vicksburg, it removed a barrier to Union shipping on the Mississippi.
January 9 — Hartville
Missouri — In early January, John S. Marmaduke led a two-pronged Confederate raid into Missouri.
Colonel Joseph C. Porter commanded one column, consisting of his Missouri Cavalry Brigade, departing from Pocahontas, Arkansas, to attack Union posts around Hartville, Missouri. As they approached Hartville on January 9, a detachment was sent ahead and successfully captured the small garrison, taking control of the town. Porter’s column then continued towards Marshfield, raiding other nearby Union installations on the 10th. Porter later joined with Marmaduke’s column east of Marshfield.
Marmaduke had received reports of Union troops closing in to surround him, prompting him to prepare for a confrontation. Colonel Samuel Merrill, leading the Union column, reached Hartville, discovered the surrendered garrison, and pursued the Confederates.
Soon after, a skirmish ensued. Concerned about being cut off from their retreat to Arkansas, Marmaduke pushed Merrill’s forces back to Hartville, where they established a defensive line. This led to a 4-hour battle resulting in numerous Confederate casualties but Union troops were forced to retreat.
The Confederates eventually abandoned the raid and returned to Arkansas.
January 29 — General Ulysses S. Grant was placed in command of the Army of the West (USA) and ordered to take Vicksburg.
January 29 — Bear River Massacre
Washington Territory — Shoshone raids led by Chief Bear Hunter during the winter of 1862–63 provoked a response from the Federal authorities. Colonel Patrick E. Connor’s troops left Fort Douglas, Utah, in January 1863, heading towards Chief Bear Hunter’s camp located 120 miles north, near present-day Preston, Idaho. The camp consisted of approximately 300 Shoshone warriors and was strategically positioned in the Battle Creek ravine west of Bear River.
At dawn on January 29, Connor’s troops appeared on the opposite side of the river and started crossing. Before all the men had crossed and while Connor was still arriving, some troops launched an unsuccessful attack that the Indians easily stopped, causing numerous casualties among the attackers.
When Connor took command, he sent troops to the point where the ravine opened through the bluffs. Some of these men covered the ravine’s entrance to prevent any escape, while others descended the ridges, firing on the Indians below.
This gunfire resulted in the deaths of many warriors, while some attempted to flee by swimming across the icy river, only to be shot by other troops.
The battle ended by mid-morning. The Union troops had killed the majority of the warriors, along with women, children, and elderly men. They also captured many women and children.
February 3 — Dover
Tennessee — In late January, Confederate General Joseph Wheeler, leading two cavalry brigades, positioned his forces at Palmyra on the Cumberland River, following orders to disrupt Union shipping.
However, Union forces, aware of Wheeler’s plans, refrained from sending boats up or down the river. Realizing that their presence in the area was unsustainable, Wheeler decided to attack the small garrison at Dover, Tennessee, based on reports that it could be easily overwhelmed.
The Confederates set out for Dover, launching their attack between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. on February 3. The garrison, consisting of 800 men under Colonel A.C. Harding, had strategically positioned themselves in and around the town of Dover. They occupied camps that provided a commanding view of the area and had constructed rifle pits and battery emplacements.
The Confederates launched an attack, using artillery fire, but they were stopped and suffered significant losses. By dusk, both sides were low on ammunition. After assessing the Union defenses, Wheeler’s force withdrew.
Wheeler’s failure to disrupt shipping on the Cumberland River and capture the garrison at Dover allowed the Union to maintain control of Middle Tennessee.
February 3 — The Yazoo Pass Expedition started. It was an operation planned by General Ulysses S. Grant to advance on Vicksburg.
February 24 — The U.S. Congress organized the Arizona Territory.
February 26 — President Lincoln signed the National Banking Act.
March 3 — Beginning of Conscription in the North
United States — Conscription, or the drafting of soldiers into military service, started in the North, having started in the Confederacy the previous year. The draft applies to male citizens aged 20 to 45, however, it also allows draftees to avoid service by paying $300 or providing a substitute to take their place.
March 3 — The U.S. Congress organized the Idaho Territory.
March 3 — Fort Mcallister, First Battle
Georgia — Rear Admiral Samuel F. Du Pont of the United States Navy ordered 3 ironclad vessels — Patapsco, Passaic, and Nahant — to test their guns and mechanical systems by targeting Fort McAllister, a small battery with 3 earthwork guns.
On March 3, 1863, the 3 ironclads engaged in an 8-hour bombardment of Fort McAllister. Despite the attack, the battery was not destroyed, although some damage was inflicted. Meanwhile, the ironclads themselves sustained minor scratches and dents during the engagement.
March 4 — Thompson’s Station
Tennessee — Following the Battle of Stones River, a Union infantry brigade, led by Colonel John Coburn, left Franklin on a scouting mission, moving southward toward Columbia. About 4 miles from Spring Hill, Coburn attacked a Confederate force. However, his attack was met with resistance, and he was unable to advance.
General Earl Van Dorn sent General W.H. “Red” Jackson’s dismounted 2nd Division in a frontal assault, while General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his division executed a flanking maneuver, encircling Coburn’s left flank and attacking from the rear.
After 3 charges, Jackson’s forces captured the Union hilltop position, while Forrest seized Coburn’s wagon train and blocked the road to Columbia behind him.
With their ammunition running low and surrounded, Coburn and his troops had no choice but to surrender. This Confederate victory temporarily reduced Union influence in Middle Tennessee.
March 11 — Battle of Fort Pemberton in Mississippi. Confederate victory.
March 13 — Fort Anderson
North Carolina — On February 25, General James Longstreet assumed command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina and launched his Tidewater Operations.
Longstreet instructed Daniel H. Hill, who led the North Carolina District, to advance toward the Union stronghold at New Berne with 12,000 troops. However, General William H.T. Whiting, in charge of the Confederate garrison at Wilmington, declined to cooperate with the attack.
Initially, Hill achieved some success at Deep Gully on March 13. However, when he faced well-fortified Union forces at Fort Anderson on March 14-15, he was forced to withdraw when Union gunboats arrived. The garrison in the city received reinforcements, prompting Hill to shift his focus to threatening Washington, North Carolina, and he withdrew.
March 14 — Steele’s Bayou Expedition in Mississippi. Union victory.
March 17 — Kelly’s Ford
Virginia — 2,100 men from General William Averell’s Union cavalry division crossed the Rappahannock River to engage Confederate cavalry forces. In response, Fitzhugh Lee led a counterattack with around 800 men.
Although Union forces initially achieved some success, they withdrew in the mid-afternoon, ending the engagement at Kelly’s Ford. This skirmish set the stage for larger cavalry battles such as Brandy Station and influenced cavalry actions during the Gettysburg campaign.
During the battle, the renowned Confederate artillery officer, John “Gallant” Pelham, was killed.
March 20 — Vaught’s Hill
Tennessee — Following the Battle of Stones River, a Union reconnaissance force led by Colonel Albert S. Hall, left Murfreesboro on March 18. They headed northeast and encountered Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his cavalry. Hall was forced to retreat to a position east of Milton.
Morgan pursued Hall and caught up with him on the morning of the 20th at Vaught’s Hill. Morgan’s men dismounted and attacked Hall’s men on both flanks. Hall organized his defenses on the top of the hill and withstood the Confederate assaults. Around 2:00, Morgan started to shell the Union forces, but he was unable to force them from the hill. Around 4:30, Morgan learned Union reinforcements were on the way, and he decided to withdraw.
The outcome of the battle allowed the Union to retain control of Middle Tennessee.
March 25 — Brentwood
Tennessee — Union Lieutenant Colonel Edward Bloodgood was stationed in Brentwood, a crucial location on the Nashville & Decatur Railroad, with 400 men.
On March 24, General Nathan Bedford Forrest sent Colonel J.W. Starnes and his 2nd Brigade to Brentwood. Forested wanted him to disrupt telegraph communications, dismantle railroad tracks, launch an assault on the stockade, and cut off any potential retreat routes.
Around 7:00 a.m. on the 25th, Forrest arrived at Brentwood with the rest of his command. He sent a messenger to Bloodgood to inform him he intended to attack and railroad tracks had been destroyed. Bloodgood tried to reach his superiors for orders but found the telegraph lines were severed.
Forrest then sent a demand for surrender under a flag of truce, but Bloodgood refused. However, Forrest positioned artillery to bombard Bloodgood’s position and encircled him. Bloodgood decided to surrender.
The loss of Brentwood was a substantial setback for Union forces in the region.
March 30 — Washington
North Carolina — General Daniel H. Hill led a Confederate column against the Federal garrison in Washington, North Carolina. By March 30, the Confederates surrounded the town but were unable to block the arrival of supplies and reinforcements by ship. After laying siege to the town for a week, Hill withdrew on April 15.
New Union Campaigns in Virginia and Mississippi
Virginia — Union forces in the east initiated a new campaign in Virginia to flank Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Fredericksburg. In the west, a Union army started a campaign to surround and capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.
April 2 — Steele’s Greenville Expedition in Mississippi. Union victory.
April 7 — Charleston Harbor, First Battle
South Carolina — General David Hunter made preparations with his land forces on Folly, Cole’s, and North Edisto Islands to coordinate with a naval bombardment of the Confederate garrison at Fort Sumter.
On April 7, Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont and the South Atlantic Squadron started bombarding Fort Sumter. However, it had little impact on the Confederate defenses in Charleston Harbor. While some of Hunter’s units had embarked on transports, the infantry had not disembarked, and the joint operation was abandoned.
April 10 — Franklin, First Battle
Tennessee — General Earl Van Dorn moved north from Spring Hill on May 10 and engaged Union skirmishers outside Franklin. However, Van Dorn’s attack was weak, which convinced the Union commander, General Gordon Granger that the Confederates were planning to attack elsewhere.
Granger received a report that Confederates were attacking Brentwood. Although the report was incorrect, Granger believed it and sent a large portion of his cavalry toward Brentwood.
Meanwhile, General David S. Stanley decided to move his cavalry brigade behind Van Dorn and attack him. During the battle, the 4th U.S. Cavalry captured Freeman’s Tennessee Battery on Lewisburg Road. However, they lost control of it when General Nathan Bedford Forrest launched a counterattack, forcing Stanley to withdraw.
The attack at his rear forced Van Dorn to cancel his attack and retreat to Spring Hill, leaving the Union in control of the area.
April 12 — Fort Bisland
Louisiana — General Nathaniel P. Banks initiated an expedition up Bayou Teche in Western Louisiana, to reach Alexandria.
On April 9, two divisions crossed Berwick Bay from Brashear City to the west side, specifically at Berwick. Subsequently, on the 12th, a third division proceeded up the Atchafalaya River to land behind Franklin, to intercept any Confederate retreat from Fort Bisland or potentially turn their position. In response, General Richard Taylor sent Colonel Tom Green’s regiment to the front to gauge the enemy’s strength and slow down their advance.
On the 11th, the Union forces started their advance. It was late on the 12th when they had reached the Confederate defenses and formed a battle line. Both sides exchanged artillery fire until nightfall when Union forces withdrew and set up a camp.
Around 9:00 a.m. on the 13th, the Union troops advanced toward Fort Bisland. The battle started after 11:00 a.m. and continued until dusk.
During the night, General Taylor learned Union forces had moved up the Atchafalaya River and landed behind him, which could cut off his retreat. Taylor started evacuating supplies, personnel, and weaponry, leaving a small force behind to delay any enemy advances.
By the following morning, Fort Bisland was abandoned and Union forces took control.
April 13 — Suffolk, First Battle
Virginia — In a coordinated effort with Daniel H. Hill’s advance on Washington, North Carolina, General James Longstreet, with the division of John Bell Hood and George Pickett, laid siege to the Union garrison located in Suffolk under the command of General John Peck. The Union fortifications were strong, manned by 25,000 troops, compared to Longstreet’s force of 20,000.
On April 13, Confederate troops extended their left flank to reach the Nansemond River and established a battery at Hill’s Point. This battery effectively blocked Union shipping access to the garrison.
The following day, on April 14, Union gunboats tried to navigate past the batteries at the Norfleet House, slightly upstream. However, during this engagement, the gunboat Mount Washington was severely damaged.
Meanwhile, Union forces constructed batteries aimed at controlling the Confederate positions around the Norfleet House. These batteries opened fire on April 15, forcing the Confederates to evacuate the area.
April 14 — Irish Bend
Louisiana — During the expedition into West Louisiana, the two divisions of the Union XIX Army Corps moved across Berwick Bay towards Fort Bisland, while General Cuvier Grover’s division took on a different route by going up the Atchafalaya River into Grand Lake. Their goal was to stop a Confederate retreat from Fort Bisland or move behind them.
On the morning of April 13, Grover’s division landed near Franklin and encountered scattered Confederate troops attempting to slow their disembarkation. That night, Grover issued orders for his division to cross Bayou Teche and prepare to attack Franklin at dawn. Meanwhile, Confederate General Richard Taylor sent some of his men to confront Grover.
By the morning of the 14th, Taylor and his forces were positioned at Nerson’s Woods, located approximately a mile and a half above Franklin. As Grover’s lead brigade advanced, it met Confederate troops on its right, resulting in skirmishes. The skirmishes escalated, with the Confederates launching an attack that forced the Union forces to withdraw. The Confederate gunboat Diana also arrived and anchored on the Confederate right flank.
Despite being outnumbered, Grover started to organize for a counterattack. However, the Confederates decided to retreat from the field, leaving the victory to the Union. This triumph, combined with the success at Fort Bisland two days earlier, ensured the overall success of the Union expedition into West Louisiana.
April 17 — Vermillion Bayou
Louisiana — While Rear Admiral David G. Farragut maintained his position above Port Hudson with the USS Hartford and Albatross, General Nathaniel P. Banks devised a plan to confront General Richard Taylor’s Confederates in Western Louisiana. Banks chose to transport his troops by water to Donaldsonville and march toward Thibodeaux, following the route along Bayou Lafourche.
Banks defeated Taylor at both Fort Bisland and Irish Bend, forcing the Confederate army to retreat up the bayou. Taylor eventually reached Vermilionville, where he crossed Vermilion Bayou, destroyed the bridge, and rested his forces. Banks continued his pursuit of Taylor and sent two separate columns on different roads, both heading towards Vermilion Bayou on the morning of April 17.
One of the columns reached the bayou while the bridge was still on fire, advanced, and engaged in skirmishes with Confederates. However, well-positioned Confederate artillery forced the Union troops to withdraw. Meanwhile, Union and Confederate artillery exchanged fire.
After nightfall, the Confederates retreated to Opelousas. Although they slowed the Union’s advance, Banks was able to press forward and continue his pursuit.
April 17 — Grierson’s Raid started. Union cavalry was ambushed in Mississippi. The raid was a diversionary tactic, meant to distract Confederate cavalry while Union forces planned to attack Vicksburg.
April 19 — Suffolk, Second Battle
Virginia — A Union infantry unit conducted an amphibious landing at Hill’s Point, situated at the confluence of the forks of the Nansemond River. This force attacked Fort Huger from the rear, and quickly captured the garrison. This successful operation reopened the river to Union shipping.
Subsequently, on April 24, General Michael Corcoran’s Union division launched a reconnaissance-in-force from Fort Dix against General George E. Pickett’s extreme right flank. The Union forces were stopped by Confederate defenses.
By April 29, General Robert E. Lee instructed General James Longstreet to disengage from the Suffolk campaign and rejoin the Army of Northern Virginia at Fredericksburg. By May 4, the last of Longstreet’s command had crossed the Blackwater River as they made their way to Richmond.
April 24 — Battle of Newton’s Station in Mississippi. Union victory.
April 26 — Cape Girardeau
Missouri — General John S. Marmaduke intended to engage General John McNeil, who commanded a combined Union force of approximately 2,000 men, in Bloomfield, Missouri. However, McNeil retreated, and Marmaduke pursued him.
On April 25, Marmaduke received information that McNeil was close to Cape Girardeau, and he sent troops to engage him. Marmaduke also found out Union forces had taken positions within fortifications.
Marmaduke ordered one of his brigades to carry out a demonstration to assess the strength of the Federal forces. Colonel John S. Shelby’s brigade conducted this demonstration, which unexpectedly escalated into a full-fledged attack. As a result, Union troops who were not already within the fortifications retreated to the safety of those defenses.
Recognizing the strength of the Federal forces, Marmaduke decided to withdraw to Jackson, ending his raid into Missouri.
April 29 — Grand Gulf
Mississippi — Rear Admiral David D. Porter led a fleet of 7 ironclad warships in an assault on the Confederate fortifications and batteries at Grand Gulf. The objective was to silence the Confederate artillery and safely land troops from General McClernand’s XIII Army Corps, who were aboard transports and barges that accompanied the ironclads.
The attack by the ironclads started at 8:00 a.m. and continued until around 1:30 pm. During the battle, the ironclads moved to within 100 yards of the Confederate gun emplacements and effectively silenced the lower batteries at Fort Wade. However, the Confederate upper batteries at Fort Cobun remained out of their reach and continued to fire.
Eventually, the Union ironclads and the transports disengaged from the battle. After nightfall, the ironclads once again engaged the Confederate artillery while the steamboats and barges successfully navigated through the hazardous area.
General Ulysses S. Grant led his troops overland across Coffee Point, positioning them below the Gulf. Once the transports had safely passed Grand Gulf, they loaded the troops at Disharoon’s Plantation and disembarked them on the Mississippi shore at Bruinsburg, located below Grand Gulf. The Union forces immediately started an overland march toward Port Gibson.
April 29 — Snyder’s Bluff
Mississippi — To prevent the withdrawal of Confederate troops to Grand Gulf and divert their attention, a joint Union army-navy force executed a feigned attack on Snyder’s Bluff, Mississippi.
On April 29th, early in the afternoon, Lieutenant Commander K. Randolph Breese led a contingent comprising 8 gunboats and 10 transports carrying the division of General Francis Blair. They slowly navigated up the Yazoo River, arriving at the mouth of Chickasaw Bayou where they encamped for the night.
At 9:00 a.m. the next day, the force, except for one gunboat, resumed their journey upriver, reaching Drumgould’s Bluff and engaging the Confederate batteries. Around 6:00 p.m., the troops disembarked and started marching along Blake’s Levee toward the Confederate artillery positions. As they approached Drumgould’s Bluff, Confederate batteries opened fire, causing a halt in the Union advance, and after nightfall, the troops reembarked onto the transports.
The next morning, May 1, Union troops were disembarked from the transports, but swampy terrain and heavy Confederate artillery fire forced them to retreat. Around 3:00 p.m. the gunboats resumed their fire, inflicting some damage. The gunboats gradually reduced their fire and eventually stopped firing after nightfall. General William T. Sherman received orders to land his troops at Milliken’s Bend, prompting the gunboats to return to the mouth of the Yazoo River.
April 30 — Day’s Gap
Alabama — Colonel Abel D. Streight led Union forces on a raid to sever the Western & Atlantic Railroad, a crucial supply line for the Confederate Army in Middle Tennessee led by General Braxton Bragg. The expedition started in Nashville, Tennessee, and traveled through Eastport, Mississippi, before heading east to Tuscumbia, Alabama. This movement was coordinated with another Union force under the command of General Grenville Dodge.
On April 26, 1863, Streight’s troops left Tuscumbia. Initially, their movements were concealed by Dodge’s troops. However, on April 30, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s brigade caught up with Streight’s expedition. An attack was launched on the Union rearguard at Day’s Gap on Sand Mountain. Despite the attack, the Federals successfully stopped the Confederate assault and continued their march to avoid further delays and encirclement.
This marked the start of a series of skirmishes and engagements, which included conflicts at Crooked Creek on April 30, Hog Mountain on April 30, Blountsville on May 1, Black Creek (also known as Gadsden) on May 2, and Blount’s Plantation on May 2.
Forrest eventually surrounded the depleted Union forces near Rome, Georgia, and forced their surrender on May 3.
April 30 — Chancellorsville
Virginia — On April 27, General Joseph Hooker led the V, XI, and XII Corps on a campaign to turn the Confederate left flank by crossing the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers above Fredericksburg.
They crossed the Rapidan via Germanna and Ely’s Fords, ultimately concentrating near Chancellorsville on April 30 and May 1. The III Corps was instructed to join the army via United States Ford. Meanwhile, John Sedgwick’s VI Corps and John Gibbon’s division remained to distract the Confederates in Fredericksburg.
As the Union Army advanced toward Fredericksburg along the Orange Turnpike, it encountered increasing Confederate resistance. Hearing reports of a strong Confederate force, Hooker decided to stop the advance and regroup at Chancellorsville. Lee’s advance force pressed closely, forcing Hooker to take a defensive posture, which created an opportunity for Lee to attack.
On the morning of May 2, General Stonewall Jackson marched against the Federal left flank, which was reported to be exposed. Fighting occurred sporadically in other parts of the field throughout the day as Jackson’s column reached its jump-off point.
At 5:20 p.m., Jackson’s forces surged forward in a powerful attack that overwhelmed the Union XI Corps. Federal troops eventually rallied, resisted the advance, and launched counterattacks. Disorganization on both sides and the onset of darkness brought an end to the fighting. Jackson himself was mortally wounded by his men while conducting a night reconnaissance and was removed from the field. General J.E.B. Stuart temporarily assumed command of Jackson’s Corps.
On May 3, the Confederates launched attacks with both wings of their army and massed their artillery at Hazel Grove. This assault broke the Union line at Chancellorsville. Hooker withdrew about a mile and entrenched his troops in a defensive “U” shape with their backs to the river at United States Ford.
During the battle, Union generals Berry and Whipple, as well as Confederate general Paxton, were killed, and Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded.
Following Union setbacks at Salem Church on the night of May 5–6, Hooker’s forces recrossed to the north bank of the Rappahannock, and the Battle of Chancellorsville ended.
May 1 — Confederate Congress Passes Retaliatory Act
The Confederate Congress passed a Retaliatory Act in line with the earlier proclamation from Jefferson Davis in response to the Emancipation Proclamation. The act established the Confederacy viewed the enlistment of black troops as equivalent to inciting a servile rebellion, dictated that white officers of black troops be executed, and mandated that black troops taken prisoner be sent to the states, where they could be executed or re-enslaved.
May 1 — Chalk Bluff
Arkansas — Union General William Vandever pursued Confederate General John S. Marmaduke to Chalk Bluff, where the Confederates intended to cross the St. Francis River. To ford the river, Marmaduke established a rearguard that came under heavy fire on May 1–2. While most of Marmaduke’s raiders managed to cross the St. Francis River, they sustained significant casualties, leading to the conclusion of the expedition.
May 1 — Port Gibson
Mississippi — In the spring of 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant started his march on Vicksburg from Milliken’s Bend on the west side of the Mississippi River. He planned to cross the river at Grand Gulf but faced a setback when the Union fleet was unable to neutralize the Confederate artillery at the crossing.
Grant responded by moving his forces further south and successfully crossed at Bruinsburg on April 30. Upon landing, Union troops secured the area and started an inland march. While advancing on the Rodney Road towards Port Gibson, Grant’s forces encountered Confederate outposts shortly after midnight, leading to a skirmish that lasted for approximately 3 hours, ending around 3:00 a.m.
At dawn, Union forces resumed the advance along the Rodney Road and a plantation road. At 5:30 a.m., they engaged Confederate troops, and the Battle of Port Gibson unfolded. Union forces gradually forced the Confederate soldiers to retreat. The Confederates attempted to establish new defensive positions at various points during the day, but they were unable to stop the Union advance. Eventually, in the early evening, the Confederates abandoned the battlefield.
May 3 — Fredericksburg, Second Battle
Virginia — On May 1, General Robert E. Lee left Fredericksburg, leaving General Jubal A. Early with his division in place to defend the town. Lee led the remainder of his army to confront General Joseph Hooker’s primary offensive push at Chancellorsville.
Then, on May 3, the Union VI Corps under General Sedgwick, reinforced by a division from General John Gibbon’s II Corps, successfully crossed the Rappahannock River and launched an assault on the Confederate entrenchments situated on Marye’s Heights.
The outnumbered Confederates withdrew from their positions and regrouped to the west and southeast of Fredericksburg.
May 3 — Salem Church
Virginia — Following their occupation of Marye’s Heights, John Sedgwick and the VI Corps set out on the Plank Road to join Hooker’s force at Chancellorsville. However, their progress was hindered by Cadmus Wilcox’s brigade from Jubal Early’s command at Salem Church. Throughout the afternoon and night, Lee detached two of his divisions from the Chancellorsville lines and directed them towards Salem Church.
The next day, several Union assaults were launched but suffered heavy casualties and failed. In response, the Confederates counterattacked and managed to gain some ground. After nightfall, Sedgwick ordered a withdrawal, and his troops crossed two pontoon bridges at Scott’s Dam Confederate artillery fired on them.
Upon learning of Sedgwick’s setback, Hooker decided to abandon the campaign and started a withdrawal, recrossing to the north bank of the Rappahannock River during the night of May 5–6.
May 10 — Stonewall Jackson died from pneumonia, after being accidentally shot by his men at Chancellorsville. His last words were, “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” When Robert E. Lee was notified, he said, “I have lost my right arm.”
May 12 — Raymond
Mississippi — Under the orders of General John C. Pemberton, the Confederate commander at Vicksburg, General John Gregg led his forces from Port Hudson, Louisiana, to Jackson, Mississippi, and then to Raymond, to intercept Union troops.
On the morning of May 12, General James B. McPherson moved his XVII Army Corps, and by 10:00 a.m., they were approximately 3 miles away from Raymond.
General Gregg decided to engage the Union forces at the river crossing at Fourteen Mile Creek and positioned his troops and artillery accordingly. As the Union forces approached, the Confederates opened fire, inflicting heavy casualties.
General John A. Logan managed to rally the men and hold the Union line. Confederates tried to attack the line but were forced to withdraw. More Union reinforcements arrived, and the Union launched a counterattack. The battle continued for 6 hours, but the strength of the Union, and the Confederates eventually withdrew from the Battle of Raymond.
Despite the retreat, Gregg managed to delay the Union advance for a day.
May 14 — Jackson
Mississippi — On May 9, 1863, General Joseph E. Johnston received orders from the Confederate Secretary of War directing him to “proceed at once to Mississippi and take chief command of the forces in the field.”
Johnson arrived at Jackson on the 13th and learned that two Union corps, the XV Corps under General William T. Sherman and the XVII Corps under General James Birdseye McPherson, were advancing on Jackson to cut off the city and its railroads from Vicksburg.
Johnston met with General John Gregg and learned there were only about 6,000 Confederate troops available to defend the city. Recognizing the dire situation, Johnston ordered the evacuation of Jackson, with the understanding that Gregg should defend the city until the evacuation was complete.
By 10:00 a.m., both Union army corps were near Jackson and engaged the Confederates. Rain, resilient Confederate resistance, and subpar defenses prevented significant fighting until around 11:00 a.m. when Union forces launched a concerted attack, gradually pushing the Confederates back. In the mid-afternoon, Johnston informed Gregg that the evacuation was complete and that he should disengage and follow suit.
Soon after, Union forces entered Jackson and held a celebration, hosted by General U.S. Grant, who had been traveling with Sherman’s corps. They proceeded to burn parts of the town and sever the railroad connections with Vicksburg.
Johnston’s decision to evacuate Jackson was viewed as a missed opportunity, as he could have had 11,000 troops at his disposal by late on the 14th and an additional 4,000 by the morning of the 15th. The fall of the former Mississippi state capital dealt a blow to Confederate morale.
May 16 — Champion Hill
Mississippi — Following the Union occupation of Jackson, Mississippi, both Confederate and Federal forces started making plans for their next operations.
General Joseph E. Johnston retreated with most of his army up Canton Road, while he ordered General John C. Pemberton, who commanded around 23,000 men, to leave Edwards Station and attack the Federals at Clinton. However, Pemberton and his officers felt Johnston’s plan was too risky and decided to attack the Union supply trains moving from Grand Gulf to Raymond.
On May 16, Pemberton received another order from Johnston, confirming his original instructions. Unfortunately, Pemberton had already started to advance on the supply trains and was on the Raymond-Edwards Road, with his rear situated at the crossroads, approximately one-third mile south of the crest of Champion Hill. Following Johnston’s orders, Pemberton ordered his force to turn around. At that point, the rear of his force, including supply wagons, became the advance of his force.
The Battle of Champion Hill started around 7:00 a.m. when Union forces engaged the Confederates. Pemberton’s troops formed a defensive line along the crest of a ridge overlooking Jackson Creek, unaware that a Union column was advancing along Jackson Road to attack their exposed left flank. When Pemberton saw the threat to his left flank, he sent reinforcements.
Union forces near the Champion House positioned artillery to open fire. General Ulysses S. Grant arrived at Champion Hill around 10:00 a.m. and ordered an attack. By 11:30 a.m., Union forces had reached the Confederate main line, and by 1:00 p.m., they had taken control of the crest of the ridge, forcing the Confederates to retreat.
The Federals continued to advance, capturing the crossroads and blocking Jackson Road, which was the Confederate escape route.
Pemberton’s division, under General John Bowen, launched a counterattack, briefly pushing the Federals back beyond the crest of Champion Hill crest. However, Grant responded with a counterattack that forced Pemberton to order his men to retreat toward Vicksburg, with their only escape route being the Raymond Road crossing of Bakers Creek.
General Lloyd Tilghman’s brigade served as the Confederate rearguard and successfully defended the retreat. However, Tilghman was killed during the action.
In the late afternoon, Union troops secured the Bakers Creek Bridge, and by midnight, they occupied Edwards. The Confederates were in full retreat toward Vicksburg, with the Union Army in pursuit.
May 17 — Big Black River Bridge
Mississippi — Following their defeat at Champion Hill, the Confederates found themselves at Big Black River Bridge on the night of May 16–17. To delay the Union pursuit, General John C. Pemberton ordered General John S. Bowen and 3 brigades to take positions in the fortifications on the east bank of the river.
On the morning of May 17, 3 divisions of General John A. McClernand’s XIII Army Corps left Edwards Station. As they approached the river, they encountered Confederates entrenched behind breastworks. The Union troops took cover when Confederate artillery opened fire, starting the Battle of Big Black River Bridge.
Union General Michael K. Lawler’s 2nd Brigade, part of Eurene Carr’s Division, surged forward and moved across the front of the Confederates, ultimately reaching and breaching their breastworks, which were held by John Vaughn’s East Tennessee Brigade. The Confederates panicked and fled across the Big Black River using two bridges. As they crossed, they set fire to the bridges, preventing the Union forces from following them.
The Confederates that managed to escape and arrive in Vicksburg later that day were disorganized. The Union troops captured approximately 1,800 Confederate soldiers at Big Black River, which was a significant loss for the Confederates. This battle effectively sealed the fate of Vicksburg, as the Confederates became trapped within the city.
May 21 — Plains Store
Louisiana — This battle was part of Union General Nathaniel Banks’ campaign in Louisiana to secure a landing point on the river.
General Christopher C. Augur’s Union division started advancing from Baton Rouge towards the intersection of Plains Store and Bayou Sara roads to secure a landing area for General Nathaniel Banks along the river.
Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson’s cavalry led the way and encountered Confederates commanded by Colonel Frank P. Powers. This initial encounter led to skirmishes between the two sides.
As the morning progressed, Union infantry approached the crossroads and came under Confederate fire, leading to a general engagement.
Around noon, Colonel W.R. Miles received orders to reinforce the Confederate position at Plains Store. He arrived in the area later in the day, however, the fighting had subsided, and the Confederates had withdrawn.
Union troops were in the process of preparing camps for the night and Miles decided to attack. He caught the Union forces off guard, but they regrouped and forced him to retreat to Port Hudson.
The Union victory essentially closed the Confederate escape route from Port Hudson.
May 22 — U.S. War Department’s General Order No. 143
The U.S. War Department issued General Order No. 143, establishing the United States Colored Troops.
May 22 — Port Hudson
Louisiana — In May and June of 1863, Union General Nathaniel P. Banks led an army in cooperation with General Ulysses S. Grant’s offensive against Vicksburg. Banks’ target was the Confederate stronghold at Port Hudson on the Mississippi River.
On May 27, 1863, Union forces launched frontal assaults against the Confederate defenses at Port Hudson but were met with resistance. Recognizing the strong fortifications and the strength of the Confederates, the Union troops settled into a Seige of Port Hudson.
On June 14, Banks renewed his assaults on the Confederate stronghold, hoping to breach the defenses and capture the fort. Despite their best efforts, the Union forces were once again stopped by the Confederates.
The turning point came on July 9, 1863, when news of the Surrender of Vicksburg reached the Confederate garrison at Port Hudson. With Vicksburg’s surrender, the Confederate hold on the Mississippi River was broken.
Facing the reality that they were surrounded and cut off from reinforcements and supplies, the Confederates at Port Hudson surrendered. The surrender of Port Hudson opened up the entire Mississippi River to Union navigation, from its source to New Orleans.
The fall of Port Hudson further divided the Confederacy and allowed for the uninterrupted flow of supplies and troops along the Mississippi River. This victory, combined with the capture of Vicksburg, marked a turning point in the Civil War and had a significant impact on the outcome of the war.
May 25 — Siege of Vicksburg
Mississippi — In May and June 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant executed a masterful military campaign that ultimately led to the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Grant converged on the city, laid siege to it, and effectively entrapped a Confederate army commanded by General John Pemberton. The campaign’s culmination came on July 4 when Vicksburg surrendered following a prolonged siege of the city.
This victory was regarded as one of the most brilliant military achievements of the entire war. The loss of Vicksburg had far-reaching consequences for the Confederacy, as it effectively split the Southern states in half along the Mississippi River.
Grant’s successes in the Western Theater bolstered his reputation and paved the way for his appointment as General-in-Chief of the Union armies.
The capture of Vicksburg was a key moment in the Civil War, as it gave the Union control of the Mississippi River and limited the Confederacy’s ability to communicate and transport resources between its eastern and western territories.
May 28 — The 54th Massachusetts, the first African-American regiment, left Boston.
June 3 — Robert E. Lee started his Second Invasion of the North, moving north toward Pennsylvania with 75,000 troops.
June 5 — Battle of Franklin’s Crossing near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Confederate victory.
June 7 — First Battle of Chattanooga in Tennessee. Union victory.
June 7 — Milliken’s Bend
Louisiana — On June 6, Colonel Hermann Lieb and his troops scouted near Richmond, Louisiana. About 3 miles away, they encountered Confederate forces at Tallulah railroad depot. Lieb drove them back but withdrew, fearing more Confederates were in the area.
While retreating, Union cavalry appeared, fleeing from the Confederates. Lieb organized his troops, dispersed the pursuing enemy, and then retired to Milliken’s Bend, informing his superior by courier.
Around 3:00 a.m. on June 7, Confederates appeared, driving in the pickets. They advanced toward the Union’s left flank. Federal forces fired volleys, briefly halting the Confederate line, but Confederates pushed onto the levee and charged.
Despite heavy fire, the Confederates advanced, leading to hand-to-hand combat. In the intense fighting, the Confederates flanked the Union force, causing significant casualties with enfilade fire.
The Union forces retreated to the river’s bank. Union gunboats Choctaw and Lexington arrived, firing upon the Confederates, who responded by extending their right flank in an attempt to envelop the Federals but the move failed.
The battle continued until noon when the Confederates withdrew, ending the Battle of Milliken’s Bend.
June 9 — Brandy Station
Virginia — At dawn on June 9, the Union cavalry, led by General Alfred Pleasonton surprised J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry at Brandy Station. A day-long, back-and-forth battle ensued. The Federals withdrew without finding Lee’s infantry camp near Culpeper. This battle marked the peak of Confederate cavalry strength in the East. From this point, the Federal cavalry grew stronger and more confident. Brandy Station was the war’s largest cavalry battle and the start of the Gettysburg Campaign.
June 9 — Battle of Lake Providence in Louisiana. Union victory.
June 13 — Winchester, Second Battle
Virginia — Following the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, Lee ordered General Richard S. Ewell’s II Corps to clear the lower Shenandoah Valley of Union forces.
Ewell’s columns converged on Winchester, where General Robert Milroy commanded the garrison. After fighting on June 13 and the capture of West Fort on June 14, Milroy abandoned his defenses after dark in an attempt to reach Charles Town.
“Allegheny” Johnson’s division conducted a night flanking march and cut off Milroy’s retreat north of Winchester at Stephenson’s Depot before daylight on the 15th. Over 2,400 Federals surrendered, clearing the Valley of Union troops and opening the door for Lee’s Second Invasion of the North.
June 15 — Battle of Richmond in Louisiana. Union victory.
June 17 — Aldie
Virginia — J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry shielded the Confederate infantry as it moved north behind the Blue Ridge. Judson Kilpatrick’s brigade of Federal troops, at the front of David Gregg’s division, clashed with Thomas Munford’s troops near Aldie, engaging in 4 hours of fierce combat. Both sides launched mounted attacks. Kilpatrick received reinforcements in the afternoon, prompting Munford to retreat towards Middleburg.
June 17 — Middleburg
Virginia — General J.E.B. Stuart, guarding Lee’s invasion route, clashed with Alfred Pleasonton’s cavalry. On June 17, Colonel Alfred Duffie’s isolated 1st Rhode Island Cavalry Regiment was attacked by Thomas Munford and Beverly Robertson’s brigades, resulting in approximately 250 casualties for the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry. On June 19, J. Irvin Gregg’s brigade advanced, pushing Stuart’s cavalry a mile beyond the town. Both sides received reinforcements, and skirmishing continued, both mounted and dismounted. Stuart was gradually forced from his position but retreated to a second ridge, still covering the approaches to the Blue Ridge gap.
June 20 — LaFourche Crossing
Louisiana — General Richard Taylor sent Colonel James P. Major on an expedition to harass Union forces and push them out of Brashear City and Port Hudson. Major’s journey started from Washington, Louisiana, along Bayou Teche, proceeding south and east. During the march, his troops raided Union forces, boats, and plantations. They captured supplies, animals, and escaped slaves. General William H. Emory, responsible for the Union defense of New Orleans, assigned Lieutenant Colonel Albert Stickney to command Brashear City and counter the Confederates.
Emory alerted Stickney about Major’s approach to LaFourche Crossing and ordered reinforcements. Stickney, however, believed Brashear City was not threatened and led troops to LaFourche Crossing himself, arriving on the morning of the 20th.
Later that day, Stickney’s scouts reported the enemy’s advance. Around 5:00 p.m., Confederates engaged Stickney’s pickets. Confederate cavalry made an initial advance but were stopped. Following some exchanged fire, the Confederates withdrew toward Thibodeaux.
On the late afternoon of the 21st, Confederates again engaged Union pickets, leading to an hour of fighting before the Confederates retreated.
Around 6:30 p.m., the Confederates returned with artillery and launched an assault on Union lines at 7:00 p.m. An hour later, the Confederates disengaged and fell back towards Thibodeaux, leaving the Union in control of the field.
However, Major and his Confederate raiders continued their march toward Brashear City.
June 20 — West Virginia was officially admitted to the Union.
June 21 — Upperville
Virginia — On June 21, Union cavalry tried to breach J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry screen. Wade Hampton’s and Beverly Robertson’s Confederate brigades defended at Goose Creek, west of Middleburg, and stopped David Gregg’s Union division. John Buford’s column veered to attack the Confederate left flank near Upperville but encountered opposition from William E. “Grumble” Jones’s and John R. Chambliss’s brigades. Meanwhile, J.I. Gregg’s and Kilpatrick’s brigades advanced from the east along the Little River Turnpike. After intense mounted combat, Stuart withdrew and positioned defensively in Ashby Gap. This occurred as Confederate infantry crossed the Potomac into Maryland. With cavalry skirmishing subsiding, Stuart made a critical choice to move east and circle the Union army as it headed toward Gettysburg.
June 24 — Hoover’s Gap
Tennessee — Following the Battle of Stones River, General William S. Rosecrans, leading the Army of the Cumberland, stayed in the Murfreesboro region for about 5 and a half months. To counter the Union forces, General Braxton Bragg, commanding the Army of Tennessee, established a fortified line along the Duck River, extending from Shelbyville to Wartrace.
Rosecrans was pressured by his superiors to attack the Confederates, as they feared that Bragg might send troops to assist in breaking the Siege of Vicksburg.
On June 23, 1863, Rosecrans feigned an attack on Shelbyville but concentrated his forces against Bragg’s right. On the 24th, forces led by General George H. Thomas captured Hoover’s Gap. The Confederate 3rd Kentucky Cavalry Regiment, led by Colonel J.R. Butler, initially defended Hoover’s Gap but was easily pushed aside by the Union troops. The retreating Confederates joined with General Bushrod R. Johnson’s and General William B. Bate’s Brigades from the Army of Tennessee, which moved to confront Thomas and his men.
The fighting at the gap persisted until just before noon on the 26th when General Alexander P. Stewart, the Confederate division commander, ordered a withdrawal.
Despite rain, Rosecrans continued his advance, forcing Bragg to abandon his defensive line and retreat to Tullahoma.
Rosecrans sent Wilder’s Lightning Brigade — the same unit that had led the charge through Hoover’s Gap on the 24th — to strike the railroad in Bragg’s rear. While they arrived too late to destroy the Elk River railroad bridge, they managed to dismantle a significant portion of the railroad track around Decherd.
Bragg responded by retreating to Middle Tennessee.
June 27 — Battle of Fairfax Court House in Virginia. Confederate victory.
June 28 — Donaldsonville, Second Battle
Louisiana — Confederate General Jean Alfred Mouton ordered General Tom Green’s and Colonel James P. Major’s brigades to capture Donaldsonville, which required the capture of Fort Butler.
On the night of June 27, Green’s men circled the fort around midnight and started the assault. However, as they advanced, some of the Confederates encountered an unexpected obstacle — a wide ditch they were unable to cross. Meanwhile, a Union gunboat, Princess Royal, arrived and fired on the Confederates.
Despite their efforts, the Confederate assaults failed, and they withdrew.
June 28 — Continuation of the Gettysburg Campaign
The Gettysburg Campaign continued as Confederates passed through York and reached the bridge over the Susquehanna River at Columbia. However, Federal militia set fire to the bridge, denying access to the east shore, and Confederate cavalry skirmished with Federal militia near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
June 28 — Following Chancellorsville and Lee’s invasion, General George G. Meade replaced Joseph Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac.
June 29 — Corbitt’s Charge in Maryland. The battle delayed J.E.B. Stuart’s arrival at Gettysburg.
June 29 — Goddrich’s Landing
Louisiana — After Union forces occupied the Louisiana River parishes where escaped slaves sought refuge with them. To sustain them, the Union leased plantations and employed them in cotton and crop cultivation. African-American troops protected these plantations, freeing up other soldiers for combat.
In response, Confederates from Gaines’s Landing, Arkansas, launched an expedition to Lake Providence, aiming to recapture escaped slaves and destroy the crops. They approached a Union fort on an Indian mound, initially planning an attack but ultimately demanding unconditional surrender, which was accepted.
Later, Confederate Colonel W.H. Parsons clashed with units of the 1st Kansas Mounted Infantry, and the Confederates started burning and damaging the plantations leased by the Union.
The next day, U.S. Naval boats landed the Mississippi Marine Brigade under General Alfred W. Ellet at Goodrich’s Landing. Ellet, along with Colonel William F. Wood’s African-American units, engaged the Confederates and forced them to withdraw.
While the Confederates disrupted operations, caused property damage, and captured supplies and weapons, their raid had only a minor impact on the Union.
June 30 — Hanover
Pennsylvania — General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry, aiming to circumvent the Union army, clashed with a Union cavalry regiment in Hanover. The fight spilled into the town’s streets. General Farnsworth’s brigade arrived, launching a counterattack that briefly routed the Confederate vanguard and almost resulted in Stuart’s capture. Stuart retaliated and, with the reinforcement of General George A. Custer’s brigade, Farnsworth held his ground, leading to a standstill. Stuart was forced to alter his course, delaying his return to Lee’s army, which was assembling at Cashtown Gap west of Gettysburg.
June 30 — Skirmish of Sporting Hill in Pennsylvania. Union victory.