The vanguard of Lee’s army—Ewell’s corps—crossed the Blue Ridge mountains into the Shenandoah Valley toward Winchester and skirmished with Union forces at Newtown, Cedarville, and Middletown, Virginia on Friday, June 12, 1863.
The following day, Saturday the 13th of June, Ewell’s forces occupied Berryville, Virginia. On the same day, Joseph Hooker with his Union Army of the Potomac finally started to move northward toward the Potomac River, leaving his headquarters at Falmouth on the Rappahannock River where he had been for nearly seven months.
On Friday, June 12, 1863 Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens at home in Crawfordville, Georgia offered by letter to President Jefferson Davis to undertake a mission to Washington, D. C. to effect “a correct understanding and agreement between the two Governments.”
With the North bracing in anticipation of Lee’s invasion, on Thursday, June 11, 1863 in Ohio Clement Vallandigham was nominated in absentia for governor by a 411-11 vote by a convention of Peace Democrats who also demanded that Lincoln allow Vallandigham to return to the United States from Canada.
After being expelled from the North, Vallandigham had arrived in the South only to be declared an enemy alien by Jefferson Davis and subsequently expelled from the Confederacy. Vallandigham had been sent to Bermuda via a blockade runner and then had journeyed to Canada.
As Lee’s forces headed northwest in a steady advance, Union General Joseph Hooker on June 10, 1863 wrote Abraham Lincoln and advocated that he be allowed to move on Richmond, which would force Lee to abandon his invasion of the American North.
Lincoln replied, “I think Lee’s army, and not Richmond, is your true objective point. . . Fight him when opportunity offers. If he stays where he is, fret him, and fret him.” Clearly the citizens of the North were alarmed.
In the vanguard of Lee’s advance toward the North, Jeb Stuart and eight thousand of his cavalry at Brandy Station, Virginia entertained themselves for several days, holding grand reviews for General Lee, John Bell Hood’s Texas division, and the local citizenry, before engaging Union cavalry on Tuesday, June 9, 1863.
Union mortar boats at Vicksburg relentlessly bombarded the Confederate defenders and civilian population of that city.
A resident of Vicksburg in early June 1863 described the Federal bombardment, noting “Twenty-four hours of each day these preachers of the Union made their touching remarks to the town. All night long their deadly hail of iron dropped through roofs and tore up the deserted and denuded streets.”
Near Vicksburg on Sunday, June 7, 1863 Confederate Texans under General Richard Taylor attacked the Federal garrison at Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana. The Confederates overwhelmed the Federal defenses, driving the defenders, including black troops, to the Mississippi riverbank.
Attempting to ascertain Robert E. Lee’s intentions, on Friday, June 5, 1863 Union troops from Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac made a reconnaissance at Franklin’s Crossing, north of Fredericksburg, Virginia and found Confederate forces blocking them.
Hooker at Falmouth and Lincoln and the War Department at Washington exchanged telegrams about the apparent shift of Lee’s army, and Washington advised Hooker to attack the moving Confederates rather than cross the Rappahannock and wholesale engage those still at Fredericksburg.
Following consultations with President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee decided to once again invade the North with his Army of Northern Virginia. Even the loss of Stonewall Jackson and the army’s subsequent reorganization would not deter Lee.
On Tuesday, June 2, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln conferred with General John Reynolds about the Army of the Potomac. Reynolds had a record of criticizing his superiors, including Ambrose Burnside and Joseph Hooker.
He had previously written in a private letter, “If we do not get someone soon who can command an army without consulting 'Stanton and Halleck' at Washington, I do not know what will become of this Army." Lincoln is believed to have asked Reynolds whether he would consider commanding the Army of the Potomac.