Almanac History - May 1863

May 1st, 1863

General Hooker's Army of the Potomac engages General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia early in the day at Chancellorsville, Virginia. Later in the day, the Potomac Army pulls away to establish an offensive position. They gather in the area known as the Virginia Wilderness where the Confederates under Stonewall Jackson's command will make a devastating attack on the Federal right flank.

May 2nd, 1863

The fighting at Chancellorsville, Virginia continues as General Stonewall Jackson takes his troops well past the Federal right flank and attacks to the west. Lee's men continue to fire on General Meade's men. While regrouping, General Stonewall Jackson is shot in the arm by one of his own men. Confederate General A. P. Hill is also wounded. The Union troops are forced back, in large part because of Jackson's brilliant strategy.

May 3rd, 1863

The fighting at Chancellorsville, Virginia continues and Union troops are forced to pull back to the Chancellor's House as Lee's men steadily bombard the area from their position known as Hazel Grove. Late in the day General Hooker orders General Sedgwick to fire on Confederate positions in Fredericksburg, and the engagement known as 2ndFredericksburg begins.

May 4th, 1863

President Lincoln is worried as things are not going well for the Union in the Chancellorsville campaign. General Lee's Confederates have pushed Sedgwick's troops back across the Rappahannock and Fredericksburg is once again under Confederate control. Casualties are heavy. Between 27 April and 4 May, the North loses 1606 men, with 9,762 wounded and another 5,919 missing. The South reports 1,665 dead, 9081 wounded and 2018 missing. Among the casualties is General Stonewall Jackson whose arm has now been amputated as a result of his May 2ndwound.

May 5th, 1863

Clement Vallandigham, a former congressman and leading Copperhead, or Peace Democrat, is arrested in Dayton, Ohio and charged by General Burnside with treason. He is reported to have called the War "wicked and cruel."

May 6th, 1863

Clement Vallandigham is sentenced to close confinement for the duration of the war as a result of inflammatory statements made earlier in the week. Despite the sound defeat of the Union Army at Chancellorsville, General Hooker makes a public statement congratulating his men: "The men are to be commended on the achievements of the past seven days." President Lincoln and General Halleck pay Hooker a visit to confer on military strategy.

May 7th, 1863

Lincoln is genuinely concerned about the recent Federal loss and writes to Hooker encouraging him to launch another movement soon, but at the same time cautioning him against action rashly or in desperation. With Chancellorsville soundly under its belt, the South turns its attention to the impending peril of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

May 9th, 1863

Grant's Federals continue to threaten Vicksburg, Mississippi. There is skirmishing near Utica and at Big Sandy Creek. General Nathaniel Banks' troops arrive in Alexandria, Louisiana after a series of successful raids.

May 10th, 1863

After the amputation of his arm, General Stonewall Jackson contracts pneumonia and today loses his battle for life. His death is a terrific blow to the South strategically and psychologically. General Lee has lost the one general on whom he relied the most.

May 12th, 1863

As Grant's Union troops move closer to Vicksburg, Union General John Logan's men are attacked by Confederate force about 15 miles outside Vicksburg. Grant realizes that the South has sufficient troop strength to defend Vicksburg, so plans to conduct preliminary assaults on Confederate positions outside the city.

May 13th, 1863

Confederate General John Pemberton prepares for the anticipated attack by Union forces and places his men in position at Edward's Station, Mississippi. Grant's troops head to this point.

May 14th, 1863

Lincoln continues to be troubled over Hooker's lack of leadership. He has done essentially nothing since Chancellorsville. Grant forges ahead in Vicksburg, forcing the Confederates to a position north of Jackson, Mississippi. Confederate General Johnston knows that his men arevastly outnumbered.

May 15th, 1863

Troops from the North and South assume positions near Edward's Station, Mississippi. Pemberton is attempting to find and destroy the Union lines of communication, but this is essentially a waste of time since Grant's strategy for positioning his troops does not depend on this kind of communication.

May 16th, 1863

Grant's Union troops clash with Pemberton's Confederates in the battle of Champion Hill, Mississippi and the North ultimately gains control of the hill. Pemberton's troops retreat toward Vicksburg and the Big Black River in Mississippi. This battle is considered the most severe in the Vicksburg campaign and casualties are high. The North loses 410 dead, 1,884 wounded and 187 missing; the South reports 381 killed, 1,800 wounded and 1,670 missing.

May 17th, 1863

General Grant's troops pursue the retreating Confederates and fighting breaks out at the Big Black River Bridge. This is a short, but fierce fight with the Confederates attempting to slow the progress of the Federals by burning bridges across the Big Black River. They pay a high price, however, with about 1,700 of their ranks taken prisoner.

May 18th, 1863

President Davis calls on civilians and militia in Mississippi to aid General Johnston's efforts in defending the city. Grant's Federals have re-constructed bridges and make their way across the Big Black River. The siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi begins.

May 19th, 1863

The initial assault on Vicksburg begins with attacks by Generals Sherman, McClernand and McPherson losing some 1,000 Federal troops. Grant has anticipated a relatively easy access to Vicksburg and is surprised when his troops are held back by the well-positioned troops of General Pemberton.

May 21st, 1863

Union General Nathaniel Banks moves his troops into position near Port Hudson, Louisiana. Troop movements here mark the beginning of the siege of Port Hudson.

May 22nd, 1863

Grant's troops make a second attack on Vicksburg, but are yet again unable to break through. Southern defenses are strong and enhanced by the natural, deep ravines that surround the city. This attack again results in heavy losses for the Union: 502 dead, 2,550 injured, 147 missing. Confederate losses number fewer than 500 men.

May 23rd, 1863

Port Hudson, Louisiana is the site of heavy fighting as General Banks' Union troops cross the Mississippi and head toward their goal. At Vicksburg, the Confederates continue to man their defenses as the Federals attempt to reinforce their positions.

May 24th, 1863

In Mississippi the siege against Southern positions continues to take shape at Vicksburg, as does the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana Both of these hold potential for a defeat of the Confederates in their attempt to maintain control of the Mississippi River.

May 25th, 1863

General Grant devises a plan to break through Confederate fortifications and enter Vicksburg. His men did a tunnel near the city into which they place 2,200 pounds of gunpowder. The explosion is supposed to open up an access route to the city itself, but the Confederates await them with yet another line of defense.

May 27th, 1863

General Bank's 13,00 men stage an initial attack on Confederate General Franklin Gardner's 4,500 men in Port Hudson, but despite their hopes for an easy victory, the Union is unable to overcome their rather disorganized offensive and the strong repulse made by Gardner's men. Union losses are heavy: 293 killed, 1,545 wounded and 157 missing. The South tallies casualties at around 235.

May 28th, 1863

The first regiment of Union black soldiers leaves Boston. The 54thMassachusetts Volunteers will train at Hilton Head, South Carolina.

May 29th, 1863

After the Vallandigham fiasco, General Burnside sends President Lincoln a letter tending his resignation as commander of the Department of the Ohio, but Lincoln refuses to accept it.

May 30th, 1863

General Lee and President Davis meet to discuss the situation at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The President recognizes that General Johnston's failure to attack Grant's positions has probably cost the Confederacy its hold on Vicksburg.