By Henry J. Raymond
MILITARY EVENTS OF 1863.--THE REBEL DEFEAT AT GETTYSBURG.--FALL OF VICKSBURG AND PORT HUDSON.
THE military events of 1863, though of very great importance, are much less closely connected with the direct action of the President than those which occurred in 1862; we shall not attempt, therefore, to narrate them as much in detail. When General Burnside succeeded General McClellan in command of the Army of the Potomac, on the 7th of November, 1862, that army was at Warrenton, the rebel forces failing back before it towards Richmond. Deeming it impossible to force the enemy to a decisive battle, and unsafe to follow him to Richmond on a line which must make it very difficult to keep up his communications, General Burnside, on the 15th, turned his army towards Fredericksburg--marching on the north bank of the Rappahannock, intending to cross the river, take possession of Fredericksburg, and march upon Richmond from that point. The advance division, under General Sumner, arrived opposite Fredericksburg on the 19th; but a pontoon train, which had been ordered and was expected to be there at the same time, had not come --so that crossing at the moment was impossible. The delay that thus became unavoidable enabled General Lee to bring up a strong force from the rebel army, and possess himself of the heights of Fredericksburg. On the night of the 10th of December, General Burnside threw a bridge of pontoons across the river, and the next day constructed four bridges, under cover of a terrific bombardment of the town. On the 11th and 19th his army was crossed over, and on the 13th attacked the enemy--General Sumner commanding in front, and General Franklin having command of a powerful flanking movement against the rebel right. The rebels, however, were too strongly posted to be dislodged. Our forces suffered severely, and were unable to advance. On the night of the 15th, they were therefore withdrawn to the opposite bank of the fiver. Our losses in this engagement were one thousand one hundred and thirty-eight killed, nine thousand one hundred and five wounded, two thousand and seventyeight missing; total, twelve thousand three hundred and twenty-one.
The army remained quiet until the 20th of January, when General Burnside again issued orders for an advance, intending to cross the river some six or eight miles above Fredericksburg, and make a flank attack upon the left wing of the rebel army. The whole army was moved to the place of crossing early in the morning, but a heavy storm on the preceding night had so damaged the roads as to make it impossible to bring up artillery and pontoons with the promptness essential to success. On the 24th, General Burnside was relieved from command of the Army of the Potomac, and General Hooker appointed in his place. Three months were passed in inaction, the season forbidding any movement; but on the 27th of April, General Hooker pushed three divisions of his army to Kelley's Ford, twenty-five miles above Fredericksburg, and by the 30th had crossed the river, and turning south, had reached Chancellorsville--five or six miles southwest of that town. A strong cavalry force, under General Stoneman, had been sent to cut the railroad in the rear of the rebel army, so as to prevent their receiving re-enforcements from Richmond--General Hooker's design being to attack the enemy in flank and rear. The other divisions of his army had crossed and joined his main force at Chancellorsville, General Sedgwick, with one division only, being left opposite Fredericksburg. On the 2d of May, the left wing of the rebel army, under General Jackson, attacked our right, and gained a decided advantage of position, which was recovered, however, before the day closed. The action was renewed next day, and the advantage remained with the enemy. General Sedgwick, meantime, had crossed the river and occupied the heights of Fredericksburg, but was driven from them and compelled to retreat on the night of the 4th. On the morning of the 5th a heavy rain-storm set in, and in the night Of that day General Hooker withdrew his army to the north bank of the Rappahannock, having lost not far from eighteen thousand men in the movement.
Both armies remained inactive until the 9th of June, when it was discovered that the rebel forces under Lee were leaving their position near Fredericksburg and moving northwest, through the valley of the Shenandoah. On the 13th the rebel General Ewell, with a heavy force, attacked our advance post of seven thousand men at Winchester under General Milroy, and not only compelled him to retreat, but pursued him so closely as to convert his retreat into a rout; and on the 14th of June the rebel army began to cross the Potomac and advanced upon Hagerstown, Maryland, With the evident purpose of invading Pennsylvania. The movement created the most intense excitement throughout the country. President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for one hundred thousand militia from the States most directly menaced, to serve for six months, and New York was summoned to send twenty thousand also. On the 27th the main body of the rebel army crossed the Potomac at Williamsport, and General Lee took up his head-quarters at Hagerstown.
Meantime, as soon as the movement of the rebel forces from Fredericksburg was discovered, our army had broken up its encampment and marched northward, on a line nearly parallel with that of the enemy, and on the 27th, the same day that the rebels reached Hagerstown, the head-quarters of our army were at Frederick City--our whole force being thus interposed between the rebels and both Baltimore and Washington, and prepared to follow them into Pennsylvania. On that day General Hooker was relieved from command of the army, which was conferred upon General Meade, who at once ordered an advance into Pennsylvania in the general direction of Harrisburg--towards which the enemy was rapidly advancing in force. On the 1st of July our advanced corps, the First and Eleventh, under Generals Reynolds and Howard, came in contact with the enemy, strongly posted near the town of Gettysburg, and, attacking at once, fought an indecisive battle; the enemy being so far superior in numbers as to compel General Howard, who was in command at the time, to fall back to Cemetery Hill and wait for re-enforcements, During the night all the corps of our army were concentrated and the next day posted around that point. The Eleventh Corps retained its position on the Cemetery ridge: the First Corps was on the right of the Eleventh, on a knoll, connecting with the ridge extending to the south and east, on which the Second Corps was placed. The right of the Twelfth Corps rested on a small stream. The Second and Third Corps were posted on the left of the Eleventh, on the prolongation of Cemetery ridge. The Fifth was held in reserve until the arrival of the Sixth, at 2 P. M. on the 2d, after a march of thirty-two miles in seventeen hours, when the Fifth was ordered to the extreme left and the Sixth placed in reserve.
At about 3 o'clock the battle was opened by a tremendous onset of the enemy, whose troops were massed along a ridge a mile or so in our front, upon the Third Corps, which formed our extreme left, and which met the shock with heroic firmness, until it was supported by the Third and Fifth. General Sickles, who commanded the Third Corps, was severely wounded early in the action, and General Birney, who succeeded to the command, though urged to fall back, was enabled, by the help of the First and Sixth Corps, to hold his ground, and at about sunset the enemy retired in confusion. Another assault was made on our left during the evening, which was also repulsed. On the morning of the 3d, a spirited assault was made upon the right of our line, but without success; and at one P. M. the enemy opened an artillery fire upon our centre and left from one hundred and twenty-five guns, which continued for over two hours, without reply from our side, when it was followed by a heavy assault of infantry, directed mainly against the Second Corps, and repelled with firmness and success by that corps, supported by Stannard's Brigade of the First Corps. This repulse of the centre terminated the battle. On the morning of the 4th, a reconnoissance showed that the enemy had withdrawn his left flank, maintaining his position in front of our left, with the apparent purpose of forming a new line of attack; but the next morning it was ascertained that he was in full retreat. The Sixth Corps, with all disposable cavalry, were at once sent in pursuit; but ascertaining that the enemy had availed himself of very strong passes which could be held by a small force, General Meade determined to pursue by a flank movement, and after burying the dead and succoring the wounded, the whole army was put in motion for the Potomac. On the 12th it arrived in front of the enemy, strongly posted on the heights in advance of Williamsport. The next day was devoted to an examination of the position; but on advancing for an attack on the 14th, it was discovered that the enemy had succeeded in crossing by the bridge at Falling Waters and the ford at Williamsport. The pursuit was continued still further, but the enemy, though greatly harassed and subjected to severe losses, succeeded in gaining the line of the Rapidan, and our forces again occupied their old position on the Rappahannock.
On the morning of the 4th of July, the day celebrated throughout the country as the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the President issued the following:--
The result of this battle--one of the severest and most sanguinary of the war--was of the utmost importance. It drove the rebels back from their intended invasion of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and compelled them to evacuate the upper part of the Valley of the Shenandoah, leaving in our hands nearly fourteen thousand prisoners, and twenty-five thousand small arms collected on the battle-field. Our own losses were very severe, amounting to two thousand eight hundred and thirty-four killed, thirteen thousand seven hundred and nine wounded, and six thousand six hundred and forty-three missing--in all twenty-three thousand one hundred and eighty-six.
During the ensuing season, a piece of ground, seventeen and a half acres in extent, adjoining the town cemetery, and forming an important part of the battle-field, was purchased by the State of Pennsylvania, to be used as a national burying-ground for the loyal soldiers who fell in that great engagement. It was dedicated, with solemn and impressive ceremonies, on the 19th of November, 1863, the President and members of his Cabinet being in attendance, and a very large and imposing military display adding grace and dignity to the occasion. Hon. Edward Everett delivered the formal address, and President Lincoln made the following remarks:--
The other great military achievement of the year was the capture of Port Hudson and Vicksburg, and the opening of the Mississippi River throughout its entire length to the commerce of the United States. General N. P. Banks, who succeeded General Butler in command of the military department of Louisiana, reached New Orleans, sustained by a fomidable expedition from New York, and assumed command on the 15th of December, 1862, and at once took possession of Baton Rouge. On the 21st, an expedition under General W. T. Sherman stared from Memphis, passed down the Mississippi to the mouth of the Yazoo, some ten miles above Vicksburg, and on the 26th ascended that river, landed, and commenced an attack upon the town from the rear. Severe fighting continued for three days, during which time our army pushed within two miles of the city; but on the 30th they were repulsed with heavy loss. On the 2d of January, General McClernand arrived and took command, and the attack upon Vicksburg was for the time abandoned as hopeless. The capture of Arkansas Post, however, relieved the failure in some degree. On February 2d, General Grant having been put in command, the attack upon Vicksburg was renewed. Various plans were undertaken, now to get in the rear of the place through bayous, and now to cut a canal across a bend of the Mississippi, and thus command the river above and below. All these failing, vessels were boldly run by the rebel batteries; and, on the 30th of April, General Grant crossed the river at Bruinsburg, sixty-five miles below Vicksburg, and immediately advanced upon Port Gibson, where he was opposed by the rebel General Bowen, who was defeated, with a loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, of one thousand five hundred men. At Grand Gulf, ten miles above Bruinsburg, the enemy had begun to erect strong fortifications. These had been fired upon by our gunboats a few days before, under cover of which the fleet had run past. Grant having now gained the rear of this strong post, Admiral Porter, two days after the fight at Port Gibson, returned to Grand Gulf and found it abandoned. Grant's army then marched upward towards Vicksburg, and on the 19th of May encountered the enemy again at Raymond, not far from Jackson, the capital of the State of Mississippi, and again defeated them with a loss of eight hundred. Two days after, May 14, they were opposed by a corps of the enemy under General Joseph E. Johnston, formerly the commander-in-chief of the Confederate army, who had been assigned to the command of the Department of the Mississippi. Johnston was defeated, and the city of Jackson fell into our hands, with seventeen pieces of artillery and large stores of supplies. Grant then turned to the west, directly upon the rear of Vicksburg. General Pemberton, the commander at that point, advanced with the hope of checking him, but was defeated, on the 16th, at Baker's Creek, losing four thousand men, and twenty-nine pieces of artillery. On the next day the same force was encountered and defeated at Big Black River Bridge, ten miles from Vicksburg, with a loss of two thousand six hundred men, and seventeen pieces of artillery. On the 18th, Vicksburg was closely invested, and the enemy were shut up within their works, which were found to be very strong. An attempt to carry them by storm was unsuccessful, and regular siege was at once laid to the city by the land forces, the gunboats in the river co-operating. Our approaches were pushed forward with vigorous perseverance; our works, in spite of the most strenuous opposition of the garrison under General Pemberton, drawing nearer every day, and the gunboats in the river keeping up an almost constant bombardment. The enemy, it was known, were greatly straitened by want of supplies and ammunition, and their only hope of relief was that General Johnston would be able to collect an army sufficient to raise the siege by attacking Grant in his rear. This had been so strongly defended that a force of fifty thousand men would have been required to make the attempt with any hope of success, and Johnston was not able to concentrate half of that number. General Pemberton, therefore, proposed to surrender Vicksburg on the morning of the 4th of July, on condition that his troops should be permitted to march out. Grant refused, demanding an absolute surrender of the garrison as prisoners of war. Upon consultation with his officers, Pemberton acceded to these terms. By this surrender about thirty-one thousand prisoners, two hundred and twenty cannon, and seventy thousand stand of small arms fell into our hands. The prisoners were at once released on parole. The entire loss of the enemy during the campaign which was thus closed by the surrender of Vicksburg, was nearly forty thousand; ours was not far from seven thousand.
The capture of Vicksburg was immediately followed by that of Port Hudson, which was surrendered on the 8th of July to General Banks, together with about seven thousand prisoners, fifty cannon, and a considerable number of small arms. The whole course of the Mississippi, from its source to its mouth, was thus opened, and the Confederacy virtually separated into two parts, neither capable of rendering any effective assistance to the other.
The great victories, by which the Fourth of July had been so signally and so gloriously commemorated, called forth the most enthusiastic rejoicings in every section of the country. Public meetings were held in nearly all the cities and principal towns, at which eloquent speeches and earnest resolutions expressed the joy of the people, and testified their unflinching purpose to prosecute the war until the rebellion should be extinguished. A large concourse of the citizens of Washington, preceded by a band of music, visited the residence of the President, and the members of his Cabinet--giving them, in succession, the honors of a serenade--which the President acknowledged in the following remarks:--
The President, a few days afterwards, wrote to General Grant the following letter:--
These victories, together with others, both numerous and important, which were achieved in other sections of the country, gave such strong grounds of encouragement and hope for the speedy overthrow of the rebellion, that, on the 15th of July, the President issued the following proclamation for a day, of National Thanksgiving:--
In other portions of the field of war, our arms, during the year 1863; had achieved other victories of marked importance which deserve mention, though their relation to the special object of this work is not such as to require them to be described in detail.
After the retreat of the rebel General Lee to the south side of the Rapidan, a considerable portion of his army was detached and sent to re-enforce Bragg, threatened by Rosecrans, at Chattanooga; but, with his numbers thus diminished, Lee assumed a threatening attitude against Meade, and turning his left flank, forced him to fall back to the line of Bull Run. Several sharp skirmishes occurred during these operations, in which both sides sustained considerable losses, but no substantial advantage was gained by the rebels, and by the 1st of November they had resumed their original position on the south side of the Rapidan.
After the battle of Murfreesboro', and the occupation of that place by our troops, on the 5th of January, 1863, the enemy took position at Shelbyville and Tullahoma, and the winter and spring were passed in raids and unimportant skirmishes. In June, while General Grant was besieging Vicksburg, information reached the Government which led to the belief that a portion of Bragg's army had been sent to the relief of that place; and General Rosecrans was urged to take advantage of this division of the rebel forces and drive them back into Georgia, so as completely to deliver East Tennessee from the rebel armies. He was told that General Burnside would move from Kentucky in aid of this movement. General Rosecrans, however, deemed his forces unequal to such an enterprise; but, receiving re-enforcements, he commenced on the 25th of June a forward movement upon the enemy, strongly intrenched at Tullahoma, with his main force near Shelbyville. Deceiving the rebel General by a movement upon his left flank, Rosecrans threw the main body of his army upon the enemy's right, which he turned so completely that Bragg abandoned his position, and fell back rapidly, and in confusion, to Bridgeport, Alabama, being pursued as far as practicable by our forces. General Burnside had been ordered to connect himself with Rosecrans, but had failed to do so. Bragg continued his retreat across the Cumberland Mountain and the Tennessee River, and took post at Chattanooga, whither he was pursued by Rosecrans, who reached the Tennessee on the 20th of August, and on the 21st commenced shelling Chattanooga and making preparation for throwing his army across the river. A reconnoissance, made by General Crittenden on the 9th of September, disclosed the fact that the rebels had abandoned the position, which was immediately occupied by our forces, who pushed forward towards the South. Indications that the rebel General was receiving heavy re-enforcements and manœuvring to turn the right of our army, led to a concentration of all our available forces; but, notwithstanding all this, on the 19th of September, General Rosecrans was attacked by the rebel forces--their main force being directed against his left wing, under General Thomas, endeavoring to turn it so as to gain the road to Chattanooga. The attack was renewed the next morning, and with temporary success--Longstreet's Corps, which had been brought down from the Army of Virginia, having reached the field and poured its massive columns through a gap left in the centre of our line by an unfortunate misapprehension of an order; but the opportune arrival and swift energy of General Granger checked his advance, and the desperate valor of Thomas and his troops repulsed every subsequent attempt of the enemy to carry the position. Our losses, in this series of engagements, were sixteen hundred and forty-four killed, nine thousand two hundred and sixty-two wounded, and four thousand eight hundred and forty-five missing--a total swelled by the estimated losses of our cavalry to about sixteen thousand three hundred and fifty-one. The rebel General immediately sent Longstreet against Burnside, who was at Knoxville, while he established his main force again in the neighborhood of Chattanooga. In October, General Rosecrans was superseded by General Grant. On November 23d, having been re-enforced by General Sherman from Vicksburg, General Grant moved his army to the attack, and on the 25th the whole of the range of heights known as Missionary Ridge, held by Bragg, was carried by our troops after a desperate struggle, and the enemy completely routed. This was a very severe engagement, and our loss was estimated at about four thousand. Generals Thomas and Hooker pushed the rebel forces back into Georgia, and Granger and Sherman were sent into East Tennessee to relieve Burnside, and raise the siege of Knoxville, which was pressed by Longstreet, who, failing in this attempt, soon after retreated towards Virginia.
Upon receiving intelligence of these movements the President issued the following recommendation:--
On the 3d of October, the President had issued the following proclamation, recommending the observance of the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving:--