Despite any lingering doubts about commander of the Army of the Potomac General Joseph Hooker, Abraham Lincoln was determined to see Hooker victorious on the battlefield.
On April 4, 1863, President Lincoln journeyed by boat from Washington, D.C. to Fredericksburg to confer with his general. Over the next five days Lincoln attempted to focus Hooker’s attention on Robert E. Lee’s army rather than Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, arguing that the city would fall only after Lee was defeated in the field.
Throughout the war, Confederate President Jefferson Davis often found the governors of far western states critical of the Confederate war effort in general and specifically resentful of the focus given to the eastern theater of war.
On Friday April 3, 1863 Davis wrote to Arkansas Governor Harris Flanagin, attempting to reassure the governor by noting “if we lost control of the eastern side [of the Mississippi Valley], the western must almost inevitably fall into the power of the enemy.
President Jefferson Davis on April 2, 1863, in response to criticism of Vicksburg’s commanding general, John Clifford Pemberton, wrote:
“By his judicious disposition of his forces and skillful selection of the best points of defense he has repulsed the enemy at Vicksburg, Port Hudson, on the Tallahatchie and at Deer Creek, and has thus far foiled his every attempt to get possession of the Mississippi river and the vast section of country which it controls.”
On Thursday, April 2, 1863 the so-called “Bread Riot” occurred in Richmond, Virginia. Allegedly a mob crowded around a wagon, demanding bread. The unruly mob then broke into shops and took whatever they wished, including jewelry and other finery.
President Jefferson Davis personally proceeded to the scene, climbed aboard a wagon near the Capitol building, and threw the rioters the money he had in his pocket, telling the mob “(Y)ou say you are hungry and have no money. Here is all I have; it is not much but take it.”
On April 1, 1863, both the Union and Confederacy announced important changes in the command structure of their respective armies.
General Francis Herron superseded John Scofield in command of the Federal Army of the Frontier, and in the South General James Longstreet’s command was also reorganized into the Department of North Carolina under General D.H. Hill, the Department of Richmond under General Arnold Elzey, and the Department of Southern Virginia under General S.G. French.
As March 1863 closed the Confederacy still actively resisted the North. Confederate forces had a resilient winter and had absolute faith in their military leaders. In some areas there was discontentment with the Davis government, but in general the Southern attitude remained defiant and independent.
On Sunday, March 29, 1863, General Ulysses Grant changed his offensive strategy against Confederate held Vicksburg. For weeks Grant had attempted to move on Vicksburg from the north, traversing boggy marshes and swamps while constantly harassed by Confederate forces.
Now Grant ordered John McClernand’s infantry to march south from Milliken’s Bend on the west side of the Mississippi to New Carthage, below Vicksburg. The commands of William Tecumseh Sherman and James McPherson were to follow.
On Saturday, March 28, 1863 near Patterson, Louisiana, Confederate land and Union naval forces clashed. The USS Diana had been instructed to make a reconnaissance to the Atchafalaya River; accompanying her were two Union infantry companies.
Confederate artillery assaulted the Diana, killing her master and senior mate and disabling her steerage. The Diana went aground where she was totally at the mercy of the Confederates’ fire. After more than two and one-half hours of withstanding the Confederate assault, the remaining ship’s officers surrendered their ship.
On Thursday, March 26, 1863 the voters of West Virginia approved the gradual emancipation of slaves within that state.
On the same day, President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson, noting: “The colored population is the great available and yet unavailed of, force for restoring the Union. The bare sight of fifty thousand armed, and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi, would end the rebellion at once.”
On Tuesday, March 24, 1863, at Steele’s Bayou north of Confederate held Vicksburg, there was yet another skirmish near Black Bayou, as Federal gunships and troops continued their struggle to traverse numerous swamps and lowlands.
This action effectively ended the Union attempt to traverse Steele’s Bayou, forcing the Union gunboats and troops withdrawing. While annoying to the Confederates, the Union expedition proved little except the impracticality of using inland waterways to reach Vicksburg.