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 occupying 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 Braxton Bragg clashed with Union forces in late September of 1863 in northwest Georgia, amid a Confederate bid to recapture neighboring 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 allowed Confederate James Longstreet to break through during a two-day battle before Union forces pushed him back and held their ground. In the end, Confederates won a costly but critical battlefield victory. By Sept. 20, 1863, the secessionists had gained enough ground to begin staking positions on mountain heights around Chattanooga, menacing Union forces holding that 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 before later fighting in the year would drive Confederates away from Chattanooga for good.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Sept. 29: Attack on USS New Ironsides near Charleston Harbor.
The armored Union warship USS New Ironsides came under attack the night of Oct. 5, 1863, while patrolling near Charleston, S.C. The attack by the Confederate steam-powered torpedo boat CSS David inflicted damage on the warship but it manage to escape worse fate and remained active in enforcing a Union blockade of Confederate ports well after the attack. Charleston Harbor, where the Civil War had begun with the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter, was a major target of Union warships seeking to enforce the blockade against gunrunners and other smugglers seeking to transport supplies to the secessionists. But the last major Union attempt to take Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor went down in failure in early September 1863. At the time, about 500 Union soldiers and Marines in small boats had approached Sumter in an unusual nighttime operation only to see five Union troops killed, several wounded and more captured. Though the Confederates suffered no loss of life, the blockade that brought USS New Ironsides to waters outside Charleston would only be solidified through the rest of the war – creating no real imperative for the Union to try further to take Charleston militarily.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Oct. 6: Confederate quest for foreign recognition.
Newspapers this week 150 years ago in the Civil War commented that Confederate hopes of securing English recognition for the seceding states appeared to be fading. Among the papers, the Lowell (Mass.) Daily Citizen and News reported on Oct. 6, 1863, that word had just come from England that latest Confederate diplomatic attempts in London angling for recognition met with little support. "The Richmond conspirators have exceedingly slim hopes of effective co-operation" from London, the paper reported. The paper noted that, at this stage in the war, perceptions were sharpening abroad that the conflict was in great part about destroying slavery. It added critics in England denounced any attempt to build warships for the Confederate states or supply them. In the end, no foreign government would recognize the Confederate states officially as an independent country. In New York, The Herald reported consternation this week over the more than 1,000 officer POWs from recent fighting near Chattanooga, Tenn., who had been crowded into Libby prison in Richmond, Va. The paper stated: "No arrangement has been made for the release of the officers held by the rebels as prisoners of war." The publication urged government authorities to arrange an exchange.