On May 1, 1863 the Battle of Chancellorsville began. Leaving Jubal Early at Fredericksburg with only 10,000 men to oppose Sedgwick’s 40,000 at Falmouth, Lee quickly moved 47,000 of his Army of Northern Virginia to Chancellorsville to confront Hooker.
In the afternoon Hooker amazed his officers by surrendering the initiative, ordering his main units to withdraw before Lee’s advance and concentrate in a five mile area near Chancellorsville. Lee’s force moved cautiously against Hooker’s 70,000 troops.
On April 30, 1863 Joseph Hooker’s infantry concentrated and set up camp near the Chancellor family home, known at Chancellorsville.
Utilizing the Union force remaining at Falmouth, commanded by John Sedgwick, which faced Fredericksburg, Hooker planned a double envelopment which would threaten Lee’s Confederates from both the front and rear and place Federal troops between Lee and Richmond.
On Wednesday, April 29, 1863 in the West Union gunboats engaged Confederate gun emplacements at Grand Gulf on the Mississippi River, attempting to clear the way for Ulysses Grant’s army to cross.
However, after six hours of firing the Confederate gun emplacements were not silenced, and during the night Grant’s leading force marched southward along the Louisiana shore to a new landing opposite Bruinsburg, Mississippi. The Union fleet, prepared to transport the army across the river, followed the army downstream.
In late April 1863 Joseph Hooker’s Union Army of the Potomac began crossing the Rappahannock at Kelly’s and U.S. fords, upstream from Fredericksburg, moving into the heart of the Wilderness area.
As Hooker’s corps moved, church bells in Confederate held Fredericksburg sounded the alarm. A flanking attack by the Federals was obviously under way. With George Stoneman’s Union cavalry disrupting Lee’s lines of communications, Hooker hoped to confuse Lee about his intentions, then draw him into the field and destroy the Confederate army.
As granted by the Constitution, Presidents have the power to grant clemency in one or more of the following ways: granting a full pardon, commuting a sentence, or rescinding a fine.
Except for a single act of pardoning 264 Dakota Indians who attacked white settlers in the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862, Abraham Lincoln sparingly utilized his ability to issue pardons or grant clemency while in the White House.
Springtime raiding continued in late April 1863. John Marmaduke’s Confederate cavalry attacked Cape Girardeau, Missouri and also skirmished near the town of Jackson, while a second Confederate force under W.E. “Grumble” Jones threatened Altamont, Oakland, and Cranberry Summit, Maryland.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Grierson’s Union raiders rode through Central Mississippi, and Abel Streight’s Union force—many mounted on mules—moved from Tuscumbia, Alabama toward Rome, Georgia.
Anxious as he was for the Army of the Potomac to return to the field, President Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by General Henry Halleck and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, in mid-April 1863 took a one day trip to Aquia Creek to confer with General Joseph Hooker on his upcoming campaign.
The trip was carried out in secrecy; spies could not be allowed to warn Robert E. Lee of Hooker’s plans. A week after Lincoln’s visit, on April 27, the Army of the Potomac began to move, marching from Falmouth up the Rappahannock toward the fords over the river.
Since May 1861 when England recognized the belligerent rights of the Confederacy, many a foreign ship had run the Union blockade of the Southern coastline which stretched from the Chesapeake Bay to the mouth of the Rio Grande River.
Just across the Rio Grande and outside the jurisdiction of the Union blockade, Matamoras, Mexico maintained a lively trade between the Confederacy and many European nations.
Monday, April 27, 1861 was Ulysses Grant’s forty-first birthday. It also marked the completion of his first-stage preparations for getting his troops across the Mississippi in order to assault Vicksburg’s land defenses.
On Wednesday, April 22, 1863 in front of Vicksburg a Federal flotilla of six transports and twelve barges attempted to pass the city’s Confederate batteries. One transport and six of the barges were sunk by Vicksburg’s guns, but the remaining ships carried their precious supplies to Ulysses Grant’s troops below the city.
President Jefferson Davis by telegram advised Vicksburg’s commander, General John Pemberton, to float fire rafts down the Mississippi River when Union ships attempted to pass the city’s guns or to anchor them in the river on dark nights.