Friday, May 03, 2013 9:01 am
This Week in the Civil War
By The Associated Press
The Second Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., was fought 150 years ago in May 1863 in and around Fredericksburg, Va. Thousands of Confederate forces clashed with Union foes anxious to press onward to the gates of Richmond, capital of the Confederacy. Union troops overran and captured Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg in fierce combat that included hand-to-hand fighting with Southern rivals, many of whom were killed or fled on foot. But Lee countered May 4 with a fierce assault of his own, retaking that strategic high ground and forcing a Union withdrawal. The chaotic series of days would close out with the death May 10, 1863, of the mortally wounded Confederate Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. He had contracted pneumonia after having his left arm amputated after being mistakenly shot by his own men May 2, 1863. Confederate Robert E. Lee was famously quoted as saying of Jackson's wounding: "He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right arm." Jackson, gradually growing weaker at a house where he was taken, was with his wife and their infant daughter at his bedside when he died. Jackson would be buried in Lexington, Va., mourned throughout the Confederacy.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, May 12: Fighting in Mississippi.
On May 16, 1863, Union and Confederate forces clashed at the Battle of Champion Hill in Mississippi, dueling with artillery and rifle fire. Amid fierce combat, Union fighters swept across the top of Champion Hill, forcing Rebel forces into chaotic retreat before a Confederate counterattack was mustered. But stubborn Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered his forces to push back again and a Union assault was launched with fresh troops arriving on the scene. That counterattack forced the Confederates into all-out retreat toward Vicksburg, Miss. The fighting in Mississippi 150 years ago during the Civil War marked the prelude to Grant's siege of Vicksburg, which would open days later in May 1863. Grant would ultimately force the surrender of Confederates garrisoned in heavily fortified Vicksburg later in 1863. It would mark one of the turning points of the war as Union forces wrested away full control of the Mississippi River, splitting the Confederacy and propelling Grant toward overall command of Union forces.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, May 19: Union assaults on Vicksburg, Miss.
This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, Ulysses Grant hurled his Union forces at heavily fortified Vicksburg, Miss., in hopes of a swift conquest of the Mississippi River city. Union artillery began the assault early on May 19, 1863 before troopers stormed through a series of Confederate obstacles of downed trees and other obstructions toward the Confederate lines. But Southern fighters responded with withering fire, driving back the federal forces with heavy loss of life. Grant realized after his forces were repulsed that his reconnaissance had been too hasty, and he ordered more careful study of the terrain around Vicksburg before unleashing another assault on May 22, 1863. This time Union artillery pummeled the city's defenses for several hours before federal infantrymen advanced toward the city. But again, Union forces were pushed back with an estimated 3,000 lives lost. This would mark the escalation of Grant's campaign to besiege Vicksburg and gain control of the wide river below, a key prize as a major trading corridor through the country's heartland.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, May 26: Fighting for control of the lower Mississippi River.
Union forces acted this week in 1863 in a coordinated onslaught against Confederates holding Port Hudson, La., bidding to dislodge them while Ulysses S. Grant ratcheted up his offensive against the heavily fortified city of Vicksburg, further up the Mississippi River. The Union on May 27, 1863, unleashed assaults on Confederate fortifications but were immediately pushed back. Federal fighters then lapsed into a siege that would last for several weeks before Union fighters would again try - and fail - with another assault in mid-June. It wouldn't be until early July 1863 when Grant's Union fighters had forced the surrender of the Confederate garrison at Vicksburg, Miss., before Port Hudson would capitulate. The fighting in Louisiana and Mississippi marked a new chapter in the war as Grant sought would assert Union control over the entire Mississippi River through the Deep South to federally held New Orleans.