Throughout the war, President Abraham Lincoln maintained an active correspondence with many individuals, both military and civilian.
To the Radical Republican Congressman Henry Winter Davis, who opposed Lincoln on several political issues, the president wrote on March 18, 1863, noting: “Let the friends of the government first save the government, and then administer it to their own liking.”
On Saturday, March 21, 1863, Union General Edwin Voss Sumner died of a heart attack while visiting his daughter’s home in Syracuse, New York. A career officer and the oldest corps commander on either side during the Civil War, Sumner was known as "Bull Head" because legend alleged that a musket ball once bounced off his head.
President Abraham Lincoln carefully monitored Ulysses Grant’s campaign against Confederate held Vicksburg, Mississippi. On March the 20th the president telegraphed General Stephen Hurlbut at Memphis, Tennessee, noting: “What news have you? What from Vicksburg? What from Yazoo Pass? What from Lake Providence? What generally?”
On Wednesday, March 18, 1863 in Paris, France the banking house of Emile Erlanger and Company granted the Confederacy a loan of three million pounds—approximately $14.5 million—based on seven percent bonds payable in twenty years.
Napoleon III of France sympathized with the Confederacy, and Emile Erlanger himself would in 1864 marry the daughter of Confederate commissioner to France, John Slidell.
Union General-in-Chief Joseph Hooker was furious over the late February 1863, Confederate cavalry raid near his Fredericksburg, Virginia headquarters.
On Tuesday, March 17, 1863 twenty-one hundred Union cavalry commanded by General William Averell crossed the Rappahannock, but General Fitzhugh Lee, who ironically was one of Averell’s closest friends at West Point, counterattacked near Kelly’s Ford with a Confederate cavalry brigade of approximately 800 men.
On Monday, March 16, 1863, while the Yazoo Pass expedition was ending in front of Fort Pemberton on the Yalobusha* River north of Confederate held Vicksburg, General Ulysses Grant and Admiral David Porter launched yet another movement against the city via Steele’s Bayou.
Eleven Union vessels supported by General William Tecumseh Sherman’s infantry would spearhead the drive through some two hundred miles of tortuous, twisting bayous from the Yazoo River to Steele’s Bayou at the rear of Vicksburg’s main defenses.
In March 1863 California adventurer Ashbury Harpending, with Confederate blessing, joined other San Francisco members of the Knights of the Golden Circle to outfit the schooner J. M. Chapman, as a Confederate privateer.
Their object was to raid Union commerce on the Pacific coast, capturing gold and silver shipments for the Confederacy. Their attempt was detected, and they were seized on the night of their intended departure by the USS Cyane, revenue officers and San Francisco police.
On Saturday, March 14, 1863, utilizing the dark of night, Union Admiral David Farragut in his flagship Hartford led his squadron past the Confederate batteries at Port Hudson, Louisiana.
While the Hartford and Albatross succeeded in getting through without significant damage, the Monongahela and Richmond were badly damaged and forced to withdraw. The Mississippi, under severe fire, was run aground, set ablaze, and ultimately abandoned; she soon exploded in the river.
General Grant’s relentless march against Confederate held Vicksburg continued as Federal gunboats and troops attempted to traverse the tangle of bayous from Yazoo Pass on the Mississippi to the Yalobusha River, ninety miles from Vicksburg. To stop this, Confederate General W.W.
Loring built Fort Pemberton near Greenwood, Mississippi. The fort, constructed of earth and cotton bales on low lying, flooded ground, successfully repelled several attacks by Union gunboats on March 11th and 13th.
During the Civil War desertion within the ranks was fairly common for both the Union and Confederate armies but worse for the North. One estimate suggested that 200,000 Union soldiers deserted during the Civil War; records of the Army of the Potomac revealed in December of 1862 that no less than 180,000 of the soldiers listed on the Union muster rolls were absent without leave (AWOL).