This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, April 7: Union Navy attacks Charleston, S.C.
A Union naval fleet of nine ironclad vessels attacked Charleston, S.C., on April 7, 1863. The attack 150 years ago during the Civil War marked a return to outright hostilities in the Southern seaport where the Civil War began in April 1861 with Confederate artillery barraging Union-held Fort Sumter. Bypassing gunfire from batteries ringing the port, the federal ironclads began attacking Fort Sumter, then defended by hundreds of Confederate troops. The artillery attack by the federal ironclads rained dozens of rounds on Sumter and the fort replied with a much heavier barrage of its own. One federal ironclad, the Keokuk, ran closer than any of the other Union vessels to fire on the fort from its two gun turrets. But the Keokuk was hit numerous times by Confederate firing, pulling away crippled to sink a day later. Another federal vessel also was hit and disabled. The federal attack inflicted only minor damage to Fort Sumter, pocking its walls with shell shot even though the stout fort remained intact. Only a handful of troops were killed on both sides. The engagement had little influence on the war effort of either side and wasn't nearly as significant as the April 1861 Confederate attack on Fort Sumter that unleashed the tides of war.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, April 14: Union gunboats run past Vicksburg.
Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had for months sought in the winter of 1862-63 to find a way to clear Confederate forces defending Vicksburg on the seemingly indomitable bluffs lining the Mississippi River there. Clearing Vicksburg would be a key prize for the Union if it could seize control of that city and gain supremacy over the inland waterway, splitting the Confederacy in half. On the night of April 16, 1863, Union gunboats ran downriver past the batteries at Vicksburg, outwitting artillery fire from the heights as they moved below that city. Grant planned to have his armada meet up with thousands of troops marching overland. His audacious plan: to send his troops trekking down the river's west bank where they could be ferried by flee across to the Vicksburg side to mount an eventual attack. For now, Vicksburg bristled with heavy gun batteries along its riverfront and along the swamps and bayous on other sides. All of its approaches by land were guarded by gun batteries. In the coming month, Grant, however, would open a 47-day siege of Vicksburg that would gain the Union a much-needed victory and further burnish Grant's star as a general who fights to win – and one Lincoln would tap to lead the overall war effort.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, April 21: Ruckus on the railroad.
Confederate fighters conduct a raid 150 years ago this week in the Civil War, aiming to destroy a vital section of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in what is current-day West Virginia. The raid led by two Confederate generals – William Jones and John Imboden – was one of many by the South seeking to block Union attempts to deliver troops, weapons and supplies to their forces in the war theater. Confederate raids continued nearly uninterrupted during the second half of the war, disrupting the Union supply effort while prolonging the conflict. The B&O Railroad was a choice target as one of the nation's oldest railroad links. Confederate raiders in April and May 1863 were successfully in destroying numerous rail bridges while seizing thousands of horses, heads of cattle and destroying ample Union supplies. Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported on April 24, 1863, that the Confederates were attempting to dismantle the sunken federal ironclad USS Keokuk at Charleston, S.C. The Keokuk was hit by Confederate shelling and disabled during an ill-fated Union attack in early April 1863 on Fort Sumter, site of the first shots of the Civil War in 1861. AP reported that "while some parties of rebels ... were endeavoring to dismantle" the Keokuk, "they were driven away by the fire of the gunboat" of a Union party." The report said some 14 federal gunboats and ironclads lingered off South Carolina's coast in the days after the attack on Fort Sumter.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, April 28: Battle of Chancellorsville, wounding of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.
Warmer weather after the winter brings renewed fighting at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia 150 years ago this week in the Civil War. Union generals attempt to crumple in Confederate lines near the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers close to Fredericksburg. Ultimately the Union forces line up against Confederate rivals near Chancellorsville, Va., on April 30, 1863. Union forces advance and fighting opens May 2, 1863, with a Confederate attack organized by its supreme general, Robert E. Lee. In the fierce combat that ensues, the Southern rebels smash through the Union line for a Confederate victory. Thought Lee gained a major victory, one of his greatest fighters, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, was wounded by friendly fire in the din and confusion of battle May 2. Jackson died several days later On May 10, 1863. His remains were taken to Richmond, seat of the Confederacy, for a final tribute before burial. For the Confederacy, the loss of Jackson was a stinging blow.