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Saturday, December 2, 2023

American Civil War – Year 1863

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The campaign of 1863 was a turning point of the war, although its beginning was unsuccessful for the northerners. In January 1863, Joseph Hooker was appointed commander of the federal army. He resumed the attack on Richmond, this time choosing tactics of maneuvering. The beginning of May 1863 was marked by the Battle of Chancellorsville, during which 130 thousandth army of northerners were defeated by the 60 thousandth army of General Lee. In this battle, the Southerners for the first time successfully used the tactics of loose attack. The losses of the parties were: among the northerners 17,275, and among the southerners 12,821 people killed and wounded. In this battle, General TJ Jackson, one of the best generals of the Confederation, was mortally wounded, having received the nickname “The Stone Wall” for his resilience in battle.

Gettysburg Campaign

Having won another brilliant victory, General Lee decided to launch a decisive offensive to the north, to smash the Union Army in a decisive battle and propose a peace treaty to the enemy. In June, after careful preparation, the 80,000-strong Confederate army crossed the Potomac and invaded Pennsylvania, launching the Gettysburg campaign. For the Union army, the situation was aggravated by the fact that at the end of June President Lincoln replaced the commander of the Potomac Army, Joseph Hooker, with George Meade, who had no experience in managing large forces.

The decisive battle took place on July 1-3, 1863, at the small town of Gettysburg. The battle was extremely hard and bloody. Southerners sought to achieve a decisive victory, but the northerners, who for the first time defended their native land, showed exceptional courage and resilience. On the first day of the battle, the Southerners managed to press the enemy and inflict heavy damage to the Union army, but their attacks on the second and third day were ineffective. Southerners, having lost about 27 thousand people, retreated to Virginia. The losses of the northerners were a little less and amounted to about 23 thousand people, so General Mead did not dare to pursue the retreating enemy.

Vicksburg campaign

July 3, the same day, when the Southerners were defeated at Gettysburg, the second terrible blow struck the Confederation. In the Western theater of operations, General Grant’s army during the Vicksburg campaign, after a multi-day siege and two unsuccessful attacks, captured the Vicksburg fortress. About 25 thousand southerners surrendered. On July 8, General Nathaniel Banks’s soldiers took Port Hudson in Louisiana. Thus, control was established over the valley of the Mississippi River, and the Confederation was divided into two parts.

Battles in Tennessee

At the end of 1862, General William Rosecrans was appointed commander of the federal Cumberland Army in the West. In December, he attacked Bragg’s Tennessee army in the battle of Stone River and forced her to retreat south into the fortifications around Tullahoma. In June — July 1863, during the war of maneuver, known as the Tullahoma campaign, Rosecrans forced Bragg to retreat further to Chattanooga. On September 7, Bragg’s army was forced to abandon Chattanooga.

After taking Chattanooga, Rosecrans inadvertently launched an offensive in three separate columns, which almost led to defeat. Realizing his mistake, he managed to concentrate the army and began to retreat to Chattanooga. At this time, Bragg, reinforced by two divisions of General Longstreet, decided to attack him, cut him off from Chattanooga and to drive them into the mountains to destroy them. On September 19–20, serious damage was inflicted during the Battle of Chickamauga to Rosecrans army, and yet Bragg’s plan did not materialize – Rosecrans broke through to Chattanooga. Bragg began the siege of Chattanooga. In the case of the capitulation of northerners in Chattanooga, the consequences could be unpredictable. However, on November 23-25, General Ulysses Grant in the battle at Chattanooga managed to unblock the city, and then defeat Bragg’s army. For the first time in history, barbed wire was used in battles for Chattanooga.

Bristow Campaign

General George Meade, commander of the Potomac Army, decided to build on his success at Gettysburg and undertook a series of maneuvers to defeat General Lee’s army. However, Lee responded with a workaround that forced Mead to retreat to Centerville. Lee attacked Meade at Bristo Station, but suffered heavy losses and was forced to retreat. Meade moved south again and inflicted a heavy defeat on Rappahannock Station on November 7, throwing Lee across the Rapidan River. In addition to the infantry, there were several cavalry battles at Auburn: the first on October 13 and the second on October 14. During the campaign, 4815 people were killed on both sides.

After the hardest defeats of the 1863 campaign, the Confederation lost its chances of winning, as its human and economic reserves were exhausted. From now on, the question was only how long the Southerners would be able to hold out against the immeasurably superior forces of the Union.

Actions on the sea

In early 1863, the Confederates managed to put into operation several battleships laid earlier. With their help, the Southerners hoped to break the blockade and make attacks against the federal fleet. However, by this time, the considerable superiority of the powerful industry of the northerners, who had organized the mass construction of low-profile tower monitors, gunboats and screw corvettes for the federal fleet, was already apparent. In addition, the level of training of seamen and officers of the northerners was much higher than that of the southerners. A clear demonstration of the difference in power was the naval battle at Wassaw Sound on June 17, during which two monitors of northerners in just 15 minutes forced to surrender the southerner’s battleship CSS Atlanta, which was considered the strongest.

In the spring of 1863, the northerners attempted an attack from the sea to seize Charleston – the largest port at the disposal of the southerners – however, their attack was repelled, and the federal ships received significant damage. Despite the significant superiority of the northerners in armored ships, their monitors proved to be insufficiently effective against coastal batteries. Not wanting to give up attempts to establish control over Charleston, the northerners organized several more attacks, which also ended in failure. In the end, the northerners managed to achieve a partial victory, capturing Fort Wagner in September 1863, which controlled the entrance to the Charleston harbor; although they could not take the city itself, nevertheless with the seizure of Fort Wagner, the northerners were able to establish a solid blockade of the harbor, completely closing it to the blockade breakers.

Charleston’s actions were marked by the first ever torpedo attack against a warship – on the night of October 5th the southerner’s CSS destroyer “David”.

The blockade of the coast of Confederation in 1863 increased significantly. Northerners put into operation many new warships – both special construction and mobilized civilians – and established tight control over the coast of the south, significantly complicating the actions of blockade breakers. The fleet of northerners also began intensive actions to seize the ports of southerners. In response to the actions of the federal fleet, the southerners resorted to a raider war against the merchant shipping of the northerners. The high-speed steamboats acquired by the southerners in Europe were secretly armed and manned by crews of mercenaries and volunteers, and used as cruisers on the oceanic communications of the northerners. The most famous of the raiders were “Alabama” and “Florida”, each seized several dozen merchant ships of the northerners.


Burin S. N. On the battlefields of the civil war in the United States
Kuropyatnik G.P. Second American Revolution
Ivanov R. F. Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War
Foote S. The Civil War: A Narrative
Boatner MM The Civil War Dictionary
Nevins A. The War for the Union
Long EB Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861–1865
Davies WC The Imperial Union: 1861-1865 .
McPherson GM Battle Cry of Freedom. The Civil War Era
Mal KM The American Civil War 1861-1865

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