This Great Continental Battle~April, 1863~the 14th to 18th

The pace of fighting picks up. Black volunteers continue to enlist while Colonel Shaw of the 54th Massachusetts makes wedding plans. General Grant’s forces are on the move to surprise General Pemberton and attack Vicksburg from the south. President Lincoln worries about the slowness of the Army of the Potomac under General Hooker and backs away from a colonization plan. Union pickets refrain from shooting at Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Confederate General Pickett tries to woo a wife, his third. Inflation makes life difficult in Richmond. President Jeff Davis allows the youngest officers in the Confederate Army.

An elderly Jewish educator laments the indifference of many to the war. Mary Ellen McClellan co-hosts a charity event. A burly poet describes his hospital work. New Yorker George Templeton Strong worries about war with England. A reporter in Europe opines that Russia has out-maneuvered the other major European powers. Illinois suffers tornado damage.

Robert Gould Shaw~"Blue-eyed Child of Fortune"

Robert Gould Shaw~”Blue-eyed Child of Fortune”

April 14– Tuesday– Readville, Massachusetts– Robert Gould Shaw writes to his mother to express his easure that she is satisfied about his marriage to Annie Haggarity but she remains unhappy that they have opted for a small wedding at which he will not wear his uniform. “She [Annie] and I agree that it is much better to have it as quiet as possible. . . . You don’t seem to appreciate how unpleasant it is to wear a uniform in public. If I were not on duty here I shouldn’t wear one in Boston, ever. Everything, as regards the regiment, is going on swimmingly, as usual. We have 630 men, and shall probably have over 700 before the week is out. . . . We have decided to have the wedding on Saturday 2nd of May– and I think, by that time, there will be no objection to my taking a week’s vacation.”

George Templeton Strong whose diaries provide much information about Northern life during the Civil War

George Templeton Strong whose diaries provide much information about Northern life during the Civil War

April 14– Tuesday– New York City– Attorney George Templeton Strong confides his worries to his diary. “We drift fast toward war with England, but I think we shall not reach that point. The shop-keepers who own England want to do us all the harm they can and to give all possible aid and comfort to our slave-breeding and woman-flogging adversary, for England has degenerated into a trader, manufacturer, and banker . . . . It’s fearful to think that the sympathies of England– the England of Shakespeare . . . in this great continental battle of her children, are guided by mere considerations of profit and loss.”

April 14– Tuesday– New York City– Mary Ellen McClellan, wife of General George McClellan, is one of the patrons and co-hostess of the Irish Relief Ball held tonight at the Academy of Music to raise money for the poor and hungry of Ireland.

Mary Ellen McClellan seated by her husband

Mary Ellen McClellan seated by her husband

April 14– Tuesday– near Franklin Crossing, Virginia– On picket duty, Union soldier Elisha Hunt Rhodes and his squad see an interesting Confederate party watching them. “General Thomas J Jackson (Stonewall) came down to the river bank today with a party of ladies and officers. We raised our hats to the party and strange to say the ladies waved their handkerchiefs in reply. . . . We could have shot him with a revolver, but we have an agreement that neither side will fire, as it does no good, and in fact is simply murder. . . . I am very well and try to enjoy myself.”

April 14– Tuesday– Paris, France– A correspondent for the New York Times prepares an update on the situation in Poland. “Russian diplomacy has got fairly ahead of the diplomacy of the West. It has always been said that the Slavonic brain was the strongest, and that for the future the young brain of Russia was to furnish the diplomatic element of Europe. After a two months’ incubation – or, more properly, a two months’ dispute – France, England and Austria have agreed to send separate dispatches to Russia, remonstrating with that Power in favor of Poland, out each in vague terms, and each from a different starting-point. These dispatches were to arrive at St. Petersburg simultaneously, and be read to Prince Gortschakoff the same day. But Russia has completely checkmated this movement. While the three Powers were elaborating their grand, but very innocent plan of attack, Russia also was preparing to meet it. She armed Cronstadt, and called her soldiers under the flag. Then, a day or two before the arrival of the notes of remonstrance from the three Powers, she published an act of amnesty for the Polish insurgents, if they would lay down their arms, and gave a promise to accord the Poles more political liberties.” He goes on to say that there is a distinct anti-Union sentiment in several prominent French newspapers as they report on the American war.

Alexander II, Tsar of All the Russias

Alexander II, Tsar of All the Russias

April 15– Wednesday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– Rebecca Gratz, 82 year old Jewish educator and philanthropist, writes to her brother Benjamin. “I marvel at the apathy of our community– with the knowledge of Fleets of iron clad steamers preparing abroad which might enter our rivers and lay our cities in ashes no movement of defense is made. Philadelphia is as full of idle people, the streets & shops crowded & except in the exorbitant prices asked for commodities & freely given the presence of war is unheeded– except indeed in the active works of charity for the sick & wounded brought to
our hospitals. My Dear brother, I am too old to do any good, but feel deep interest in all this & pray for better times.”

April 15– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman describes for his mother his hospital work. “I fancy the reason I am able to do some good in the hospitals, among the poor languishing & wounded boys, is that I am so large and well, indeed like a great wild buffalo, with much hair– many of the soldiers are from the west, and far north and they take to a man that has not the bleached shiny & shaved cut of the cities and the east. I spent three to four hours yesterday in Armory Hospital.”

Walt Whitman, 1854

Walt Whitman, 1854

April 15– Wednesday– Washington, D. C– This evening President Lincoln telegraphs General Hooker. “An hour ago I received your letter of this morning, and a few moments later your despatch of this evening. The latter gives me considerable uneasiness. The rain and mud of course were to be calculated upon. General Stoneman is not moving rapidly enough to make the expedition come to anything. He has now been out three days, two of which were unusually fair weather, and all three without hindrance from the enemy, and yet he is not twenty-five miles from where he started. To reach his point he still has sixty to go, another river to cross, and will be hindered by the enemy. By arithmetic, how many days will it take him to do it? I do not know that any better can be done, but I greatly fear it is another failure already. Write me often. I am very anxious.”

April 15– Wednesday– Fredericksburg, Virginia– Confederate General George Pickett writes to the attractive Miss Sallie Ann Corbell. “Now, my darling, may angels guide my pen and help me to write, help me to voice this longing desire of my heart and intercede for me with you for a speedy fulfillment of your promise to be my wife. As you know, it is imperative that I should remain at my post and absolutely impossible for me to come for you. So you will have to come to me. Will you, dear? Will you come? Can’t your beautiful eyes see beyond the mist of my eagerness and anxiety that in the bewilderment of my worship worshiping, as I do, one so divinely right, and feeling that my love is returned how hard it is for me to ask you to overlook old-time customs, remembering only that you are to be a soldier’s wife?” General Pickett is 38 years old and has been married twice before but his first wife died in childbirth and the second, a Native American, died of disease. Miss Corbell claims to be only 15 but is actually 20 years of age.

April 16– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Without explanation other than “I have been moved by considerations by me deemed sufficient to withhold my authority”, President Lincoln repudiates an agreement with a Mr Bernard Kock to colonize free black people in a part of Haiti.

April 16– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– President Jeff Davis signs legislation which allows minors to hold commissions as officers in the Confederate Army. He also takes steps to prevent soldiers from being away without leave.

April 16– Thursday– Newtown, Louisiana; West Point, Virginia; Eagleville, Tennessee; Paris, Kentucky; New Berne, North Carolina– Skirmishes, probes, sniper exchanges and firefights give doctors and undertakers more work

April 17– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– The Liberator reports on a recent meeting of “colored citizens” in Philadelphia. “The hall was crowded and considerable enthusiasm was manifested.” Several leaders speak and recommend that all should endeavor to fill up the ranks of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, and when authority is granted for black people to enlist in Pennsylvania, then Philadelphia can raise her own brigade. “A colored man in the audience arose, and made a few very sensible remarks, which were received with loud applause. He stated that the colored people were a forgiving race, and although they had been deprived of their rights, yet he knew they were willing to forget all, and rally round their country’s flag at that moment when their services were most needed.”

April 17– Friday– New Carthage, Louisiana– Having successfully swept past the Confederate artillery at Vicksburg, the Union fleet under Admiral David Porter arrives here. The southward movement of Union troops and ships leads Confederate General Pemberton at Vicksburg to believe that Grant is pulling away from Vicksburg.

April 17– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones describes conditions in the city. “Pins are so scarce and costly, that it is now a pretty general practice to stoop down and pick up any found in the street. The boarding-houses are breaking up, and rooms, furnished and unfurnished, are rented out to messes. One dollar and fifty cents for beef, leaves no margin for profit, even at $100 per month, which is charged for board, and most of the boarders cannot afford to pay that price. Therefore they take rooms, and buy their own scanty food. I am inclined to think provisions would not be deficient, to an alarming extent, if they were equally distributed. Wood is no scarcer than before the war, and yet $30 per load (less than a cord) is demanded for it, and obtained.” [At this time in 1863, Confederate money continues to decline in value as the government basically has little or nothing behind the paper currency. The situation will grow worse as the war continues. In U S dollars the $100 of 1863 would equal about $1850 today.]

April 17– Friday– LaGrange, Tennessee– As another part of Grant’s plan to deceive Pemberton, 1700 Union cavalry troopers under the command of Benjamin Grierson, a Pennsylvania-born music teacher before the war, head out to raid Confederate supply lines in Mississippi and Louisiana.

April 18– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia–The Confederate Congress issues a call for privateers to harass and capture Union commercial shipping.

April 18– Saturday– near Chicago, Illinois– A tornado strikes the region and does a great deal of damage. A newspaper account describes what happened. “It first visited the town of Norman, where fences were prostrated. From there its course was plainly traced to the town of Mazno. Houses were torn from their foundations and dashed to pieces. The largest trees were torn to fragments and horses and cattle scattered through the fields. Household furniture was carried a distance of half a mile. Other evidences of the fearful strength of the storm were given near Mazon. Forty acres of timber were blown down.”

April 18– Saturday– Fayetteville, Arkansas; Sabine Pass, Texas; Hartsville, Tennessee; Harrison County, West Virginia; New Iberia, Louisiana; Shannon County, Missouri– Raids and skirmishes kill and injure more soldiers.

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