This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Sept. 1: Confederates abandon Morris Island off Charleston, S.C.
Sporadic shelling of Confederate defenses on Morris Island, at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, S.C., have taken their toll this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. The night of Sept. 6-7, 1863, the Confederate garrison at Battery Wagner on Morris Island was evacuated – leaving the Union to control the barrier island near the harbor entrance. The battery was the object of a failed and bloody assault in July 1863 by African-American soldiers who fought courageously but were driven back by Confederate foes in fierce combat. One far bigger prize remains elusive to Union leadership: Confederate-held Fort Sumter. On Sept. 1, 1863, a Union frigate and other warships attempt to bombard Fort Sumter, which has been sporadically shelled for weeks from nearby vantage points. But Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began in April 1861, remained firmly in Confederate hands even as it was being pounded to rubble. Attempts to take the fort, including an attempt in early September by hundreds of Union forces, have all failed.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Sept. 8: Union victorious in Little Rock, Arkansas.
This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, a Union army led by Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele forced the last Confederate troops from the Arkansas capital of Little Rock. By Sept. 2, 1863, Union forces had swelled to some 15,000 troops nearing Little Rock. The Union columns were arrayed against nearly 8,000 Confederates commanded by Sterling Price. Steele ordered his fighters to swing into action Sept. 9, 1863, along the Arkansas River east of Little Rock. Fighting erupted a day later and an overwhelming fusillade of cannon and artillery fire by advancing Union forces began pushing the Confederates into retreat. Union cavalry relentlessly repulsed their rivals, sending the Confederates in the direction of southwest Arkansas. As Union fighters swept into Little Rock, the city's remaining civil authorities quickly surrendered that capital city on Sept. 10, 1863. Victory by the Union in Arkansas meant the federal forces were taking control of yet another capital city once under sway of the secessionists.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Sept. 15: Lincoln suspends writ of Habeas Corpus throughout U.S.
President Abraham Lincoln, bidding to gain the upper hand in the Civil War, issued Proclamation 104 on Sept. 15, 1863, suspending the writ of Habeas Corpus throughout the United States. He wrote in his proclamation that "this suspension will continue throughout the duration of the said rebellion, or until this proclamation shall, by a subsequent one to be issued by the President of the United States, be modified or revoked." Such a writ is a right under U.S. law allowing a prisoner to petition to be brought before the courts to determine if that person's continuing detention by authorities is lawful. Constitutionally, it can be suspended only in extraordinary circumstances such as ensuring public safety in times of rebellion or invasion. Lincoln's move to suspend the writ was controversial at the time.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Sept. 22: Battle of Chickamauga, Ga.
Union fighters who had previously occupied Chattanooga, Tenn., would see Confederate opponents pushing back this month 150 years ago in the war in hopes of retaking lost ground. Confederate fighters under the command of Braxton Bragg clashed with Union forces in late September of 1863 in northwest Georgia, amid a Confederate aime to recapture nearby Chattanooga, Tenn. The fighting erupted in earnest at Chickamauga in extreme northwest Georgia on Sept. 19 of that year. Combat raged for hours with the Union line stubbornly holding. But a Union general's attempt to shore up a perceived gap in his lines created an opening for Confederate James Longstreet to break through during a two-day battle before Union forces regrouped and stopped Longstreet's strike force. In the end, Confederates won a costly but critical battlefield victory. By Sept. 20, 1863, the secessionists had gained enough ground to begin positioning themselves on mountain heights around Chattanooga, menacing Union forces holding the city. All told, some 16,000 Union and 18,000 Confederate casualties were reckoned as the toll at Chickamauga – some of the bloodiest fighting in the so-called Western theater. The Confederate achievement would allow Bragg's army to besiege Union troops occupying Chattanooga enough to throttle the federal supply line for weeks. Fresh Union forces would begin arriving in the coming weeks and the Union's William T. Sherman would arrive by November before fighting later in 1863 would drive Confederates from the region.