Much has been made of Abraham Lincoln’s belief in the spirit world. After the death of young Willie Lincoln in 1862, both Lincolns—but especially Mary—grieved and sought comfort through Spiritualists, such as Nettie Colburn Maynard, who was often invited to the White House.
At one such séance, a grand piano being played by Ms. Maynard reputedly rose from the floor, and President Lincoln and Union Colonel Simon Kase allegedly climbed upon the piano to hold it in place.
By mid-April 1863 the Confederate Congress passed a series of legislative acts which revealed inherent weaknesses in the Confederate military. On April 16, President Jefferson Davis approved an act to allow minors to hold army commissions; the act suggested a shortage of manpower in the Confederate nation.
In mid-April 1863 both the Union and Confederacy launched impressive cavalry raids to harass their enemies. From La Grange, Tennessee Union Colonel Benjamin Grierson headed south with seventeen hundred cavalry, raiding through Mississippi.
On Tuesday morning, April 14, 1863 Union forces under General Nathaniel Banks took possession of Fort Bisland, Louisiana which Confederate troops had abandoned during the prior night.
Moving against Confederate held Port Hudson on the Mississippi River, Union forces in a series of maneuvers had traversed the marshy swamps of the Bayou Teche region and attacked Confederate troops under the command of General Richard Taylor at Fort Bisland, located in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana.
Fort Sumter at Charlestown, South Carolina was symbolically important to the Union war effort. It was, of course, the site of the war’s beginning and was the first Federal installation under siege to capitulate to the Confederates.
On Saturday, April 11, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, just returned from his visit to Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac, conferred with his Cabinet members and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck on military matters.
The Confederate Congress and President Jefferson Davis sometimes disagreed on policy matters, but on Friday, April 10, 1863 Davis concurred with congressional opposition to the planting of cotton and tobacco, acknowledging:
“Let fields be devoted exclusively to the production of corn, oats, beans, peas, potatoes, and other food for man and beast; let corn be sown broadcast for fodder ...and let all your efforts be directed to the prompt supply of these articles in the districts where our armies are operating.”
While Abraham Lincoln visited with Union General Joseph Hooker and his Army of the Potomac in Virginia, the fighting around Vicksburg, Mississippi continued. Federal troops under General John McClernand continued their operations below Milliken’s Bend.
On Tuesday, April 4, 1863, Union ironclads under the command of Flag Officer Samuel Du Pont steamed into Charlestown Harbor and in an ill-advised maneuver attacked Fort Sumter.
Confederate shore batteries and those at Sumter returned fire, successfully damaging five of the attacking Union warships. The combined Confederate batteries fired over 2200 shells at their attackers, compared to only 154 fired from the ironclads.