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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Civil War: Events of January 1863


On New Year’s Day, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.  On that same day, a naval action, the Battle of Galveston was fought.  Two Confederate ships sailed from Houston to Galveston aiming to engage the Union fleet in Galveston harbor.  One of the southern ships, the CSS Neptune, was severely damaged and eventually sank the other ship, the Bayou City, managed to capture one of the Union vessels.  During the action, the USS Westfield went aground.  The Union commander, William Renshaw, ordered the vessel’s destruction rather than allowing it to fall into enemy hands.  But the explosives went off early, killing Renshaw and several other Union troops.  Ashore, the Union troops saw the explosion and assumed that the Union fleet was surrendering, and therefore laid down their arms.  The rest of the Union fleet withdrew to New Orleans.  This action temporarily lifted the Union blockade and the Confederacy maintained control of this vital port for the remainder of the war.
 
January 2nd saw General William T. Sherman abandon his attempt to take Vicksburg, MS.
 
On the 4th, Major General McClernand began to move up the Arkansas River.  Also on that day, President Lincoln and General Halleck order Grant to rescind Special Order 11, which had expelled Jews from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.  Also on the 4th, the USS Quaker City and USS Memphis seized the Confederate blockade runner Mercury while on its way to the Bahamas.
 
January 9-11 saw the Battle of Fort Hindman, also known as Arkansas Post.  Downriver from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the Southerners had constructed a large fort on a bluff 25 feet above the Arkansas River.  The fort’s purpose was to block the Union Army’s route to Little Rock.  Manned by 5,000 troops, mostly Texas Cavalry, was in a poor state due to disease and a tenuous supply line.  President Lincoln had granted General John McClernand permission to begin an offensive against Vicksburg from Memphis.  McClernand, a highly ambitious man, viewed this as a way to attain both military glory and political gain.  His plan lay at direct odds with the plans of General Grant, Commander of the Tennessee Army.  McClernand ordered General William T. Sherman’s troops to join his in the assault, even though Sherman was under Grant’s command.  With this combined force of 33,000, he attacked Fort Hindman instead of Vicksburg as he had promised Lincoln.  On January 9th, Union troops began landing and moving upriver. The next day, Admiral David Porter moved his fleet of ironclads into position and began bombarding the fort.  Porters ships completed an envelopment, and with McClernand’s ground attack, forced the Confederates to surrender.  The Southerners lost a fourth of their total number of troops in Arkansas, and was the largest Confederate surrender until the final capitulation in 1865.  Union losses were high and the victory did not contribute materially to the eventual capture of Vicksburg in July.  Because he had lied to the President and disobeyed the orders of all of his superiors, McClernand was recalled and Grant assumed personal command of the Vicksburg campaign.
 
On January 14th, the CSS Alabama sank the USS Hatteras off Galveston.
 
January 20-22 saw the infamous “Mud March” as General Ambrose Burnside fruitlessly marched the Army of the Potomac through the sludge and slime of Wintertime Virginia in a vain attempt to find another crossing of the Rappahannock.  Three days later, Lincoln fired Burnside and replaced him with General Joseph Hooker.  Called “Fightin’ Joe”, his subsequent failures led a contemptuous Robert E. Lee to refer to him as “Mr. F. J. Hooker.”
 
Also on January 25th, Union forces withdrew from Corinth, MS where they had been ordered to protect southbound Mississippi shipping.
 
On the 26th, Lincoln sent a personal letter to General Hooker, warning him that even though Hooker had been given the command, Lincoln knew that Hooker had “thwarted him (Burnside) as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer.”
 
January 27th saw another in a string of Naval assaults on Fort McAllister, GA.
 
On January 31st, the Confederate ironclads Chicora and Palmetto State raided the Union blockade of Charleston Harbor.  Some Union ships were damaged, but the blockade held.
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