Having received Lincoln’s support over his arrest of the Copperhead agitator Clement Vallandigham, General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Department of the Ohio, on Monday, June 1, 1863 ordered the Chicago Times newspaper taken over by the military “on account of the repeated expression of disloyal and incendiary sentiments.”
The demise of Stonewall Jackson after Chancellorsville forced Robert E. Lee to reorganize his Army of Northern Virginia. On Saturday, May 30, 1863 Lee authorized three new corps commanders—Generals R.S. Ewell, A.P. Hill, and James Longstreet.
On Friday, May 29, 1863 General Ambrose Burnside, Union commander at Cincinnati, offered his unconditional resignation to Lincoln as a result of the arrest, conviction, and banishment of Clement Vallandigham, the Northern Copperhead leader.
Lincoln refused to accept Burnside’s resignation even though Indiana Governor Oliver Morton and other politicians had protested Vallandigham’s arrest on the grounds that it increased opposition to the war in the critical, border states along the Ohio River.
On Wednesday, May 27, 1863 General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered an attack on Fort Hill, a Confederate strong point on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, utilizing several Union gunboats including the hard luck USS Cincinnati.
Sunk while attacking Fort Pillow in May 1862 but later raised and restored to duty, the stern-wheel, casemate gunboat Cincinnati with logs and bales of hay to protect her crew was promptly sent to the bottom of the Mississippi with her colors still flying from the stump of her mast.
After encircling Confederate forces at Port Hudson, General Nathaniel Banks’ Union troops totaling approximately 13,000 in number on Tuesday, May 26, 1863 made a major assault on Port Hudson’s 4500 Confederates under the command of General Franklin Gardner.
In a disorganized attack which included some Negro troops, Union forces failed to breach the Confederate line, drawing close to the Confederate parapets before being repulsed but suffering some 1995 killed, wounded, or missing. The Confederates suffered approximately 235 casualties.
By late May 1863 United States naval forces were actively engaged against their Confederate foes. On the Mississippi River, on May 21, a Federal flotilla assaulted Confederate held, Yazoo City, Mississippi, forcing the evacuating Confederates to destroy their shops and naval yard, including two steamboats and a partially completed gunboat.
By late May 1863 both presidents of the North and South were busily corresponding with their subordinates in the field. Jefferson Davis wired General Braxton Bragg at Tullahoma, Tennessee, expressing concerns whether the Vicksburg garrison could be sustained and noting “The vital issue of holding the Mississippi at Vicksburg is dependent on the success of General Johnston in an attack on the investing force….Can you help him?”
On Friday, May 22, 1863, Ulysses Grant ordered a massive assault against Confederate held Vicksburg. Attacking on a three mile front with all available troops, approximately 45, 000 Federals charged the Confederate defenses, moving through deep, narrow ravines; the Confederates—behind a line of high breastworks protected by dirt and logs—rejected the Union attackers.
With Ulysses Grant’s Federals at the gates of Vicksburg, on May 21, 1863 Union forces under General Nathaniel Banks moved out of Baton Rouge and Alexandria, Louisiana and headed toward Confederate held Port Hudson on the Mississippi River.
Except for Vicksburg, Port Hudson was the remaining Confederate defense on the Mississippi River. Like Vicksburg, it had to be held at all costs to prevent the Confederacy from being bisected at the Mississippi River.
On Tuesday, May 19, 1863 with the envelopment of Confederate held Vicksburg complete, Ulysses Grant ordered the first, direct assault against the city’s substantial defenses. With William Tecumseh Sherman’s corps to the north or right, James McPherson’s corps in the center, and John McClernand’s corps on the left, thousands of Union troops confronted Vicksburg.