Regular Siege to Out-camp the Enemy~May, 1863~ the 24th to the 28th

The month of May winds down, Big battles, little skirmishes and siege operations increase casualties. Soldiers and civilians worry and wonder. Gold is discovered in the West. In Boston the black enlisted men and the white officers of the 54th Massachusetts take ship for the South and their encounter with destiny. Former Congressman Vallandigham is turned over to the Confederacy. General Grant fails to take Vicksburg, Mississippi by direct assault and settles down to an intense siege. Another Union force surrounds Port Hudson, Louisiana, and begins a siege there. Life goes on.

President Lincoln

President Lincoln

May 24– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln and Senator James Doolittle, of Wisconsin, visit three area hospitals. The New York Herald reports, “The President expressed his gratification at the excellent condition of the hospitals and the comfortable condition of the patients. He shook hands with over one thousand soldiers, nearly all of whom were able to stand up. The soldiers seemed highly delighted as the President grasped them by the hand.”

Senator Doolittle of Wisconsin

Senator Doolittle of Wisconsin

May 24– Sunday– Green River, Kentucky– William Taylor writes to his wife, Jane, warning her about the bad habits he is acquiring in the army and will bring home after the war. “Still it may not be so bad after all dear. Do not despair of me. If anything can be done with me, it is you that can do it. I will try to be as agreeable as I can, for I don’t want to loose your good opinion as yet, and maybe with taking the right plan you may get me brought round to be a little like other folks after all. I guess you did not foresee all these matters when you consented to let me go . . . . However, there is one thing in favor of your making a good job of me yet. I have with all these bad habits, learned a good one, that is to obey orders, so that if you give orders right you may have things pretty near your own way after all.

May 24– Sunday– Woodbury, Tennessee; Mill Springs, Kentucky; Mechanicsburg, Mississippi; Lake Providence, Louisiana; Austin, Mississippi– Bloodshed continues.

May 25– Monday– outside of Murfreesboro, Tennessee– Under a flag of truce, former Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham is turned over to Confederate guards. The Memphis Bulletin reports: “Part of the exile’s provision for his pilgrimage into rebellion very properly consisted of two boxes of whisky.”

Clement Vallandigham

Clement Vallandigham

May 25– Monday– White County, Tennessee– In her diary, Amanda McDowell evaluates her brother’s loyalty to the Confederacy. “He still advises us to buy clothing as if we could buy anything here. He talks of the Confederate money being good in the North and going so well in Kentucky. If it is very good, it is more than it is here. Though we could buy some things at some price, I reckon, was there anything to buy. He has been so used to carrying things through that he commenced, that he can’t for the life of him believe but what the South will come out all right. . . . . he can’t help but look on the brighter side altogether. I know he has got sense enough to see things in their proper light if he would only look.”

May 25– Monday– Vicksburg, Mississippi–A frontal assault having failed, General Grant reluctantly settles into a siege. He issues Special Order #140: “Corp commanders will immediately commence the work of reducing the enemy by regular approaches. It is desirable that no more loss of life shall be sustained in the reduction of Vicksburg and the capture of the garrison.” Privately he writes, “I determined upon a regular siege to ‘out-camp the enemy,’ as it were, and to incur no more losses.”

Vicksburg besieged

Vicksburg besieged

May 25– Monday– Port Hudson, Louisiana– Confederate General Franklin Gardner decides not to evacuate his position but rather to mount a staunch defense as the Union forces work to encircle him.

May 26– Vicksburg, Mississippi– Union General Lawlor in his report of the fight at fight at Big Black River Bridge on may 17th comments on the death of a fine officer. “The death of Colonel Kinsman, of the Twenty-third Iowa Volunteers, whose brave and gallant conduct is the theme of universal praise, fills the hearts of all who knew him with poignant sorrow. A splendid soldier, a perfect gentleman, and a finished scholar, endowed in the highest degree with the noblest qualities of true manhood, his loss cannot prove less to his State and country than a public calamity to the officers and soldiers of his command, who had learned to love and respect him with an earnestness and devotion rarely equaled. His loss is irreparable, but he fell as the true soldier wishes to fall in the moment of victory, when his country’s flag waved in triumph over the stronghold of rebel treason, and died as the true soldier wishes to die, with Christian resignation and fortitude.”

May 26– Tuesday– Alder Gulch, Idaho, Territory [later, Virginia City, Montana– Word of a potentially rich gold discovery is creating a flood of prospectors and merchants into the area. It will grow into a boom town in a matter of weeks, with no law officers and an active vigilante committee. Many of the original arrivals are suspected of being Southern sympathizers.

May 26– Tuesday– Rouen, France– Birth of Charles-Victor Langlois, historian and paleographer. His 1897 book will be one of the first comprehensive manuals on the application of scientific techniques to historical research. He will serve as director of France’s National Archives from 1913 until his death in 1929.

May 27– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman to Thomas P. Sawyer: “Well, . . . the great battle between Hooker & Lee came off, & what a battle it was– without any decisive results again, though at the cost of so many brave men’s lives & limbs– it seems too dreadful, that such bloody contests, without settling any thing, should go on. The hospitals here are filled with the wounded, I think the worst cases & the plentiest of any fighting yet.”.

May 27– Port Hudson, Louisiana– The Confederates repulse the first assault on their positions. Their casualties total 235 while the Union force loses a total of 1995.

Union siege gun attacking Port Hudson

Union siege gun attacking Port Hudson

May 27– Wednesday– Crowthorne, England–The Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum receives its first patients.

Broadmoor Asylum, c. 1867

Broadmoor Asylum, c. 1867

May 28– Thursday– Boston, Massachusetts– The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry parades through the city to the docks where they board ships for Hilton Head, South Carolina. One newspaper declares: “No regiment has collected so many thousands as the Fifty-fourth. Vast crowds lined the streets where the regiment was to pass, and the Common was crowded with an immense number of people such as only the Fourth of July or some rare event causes to assemble. . . . No white regiment from Massachusetts has surpassed the Fifty-fourth in excellence of drill, while in general discipline, dignity, and military bearing the regiment is acknowledged by every candid mind to be all that can be desired.” They march past the house of the eloquent abolitionist Wendell Phillips on Essex Street and see Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison watching from the second floor. At the wharf Frederick Douglass stands to watch them depart until the vessels are out of sight. [Two months from now 54 of them will be dead and 52 others missing in action.]

May 28– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln telegraphs Union General Rosecrans at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. “I would not push you to any rashness, but I am very anxious that you do your utmost, short of rashness, to keep Bragg from getting off to help Johnston against Grant.” Rosecrans acknowledges receipt of the message but does nothing.

May 28– Thursday– Wartrace, Tennessee– Confederate soldier Hiram Holt writes to his wife. “There is a woman in the guard house . . . who fought through the battles of Murfreesboro & Perryville. She was dressed like a man & is still. She and the other prisoners play cards together just as if she was another man. She will be sent home soon, what do you think of her?”

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