Ulysses Grant’s relentless march toward Confederate held Vicksburg continued into March of 1863. Since the end of January Union troops had been digging a canal at “Swampy Toe,” opposite Vicksburg in an effort to move boats and men around the fortified city.
On Monday, March 9, 1863 in Charlestown, South Carolina James Louis Petigru* died. An accomplished lawyer and long serving member of the state legislature, Petigru had opposed Calhoun and his nullificationists in the 1830s, preferring to believe in the supremacy of the national government over the states.
He also opposed the secession of South Carolina in 1860, remarking that "South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum." He remained an avowed opponent of the Confederacy.
On Sunday, March 8, 1863 Union Brigadier General E.H. Stoughton and his garrison at Fairfax County Court House, Virginia were asleep when twenty-nine men under the command of Confederate partisan ranger John S. “the Gray Ghost” Mosby entered the town, Stoughton’s headquarters, and then his bedroom.
On Wednesday, March 4, 1863 a reinforced Union infantry brigade left Franklin, Tennessee to reconnoiter* southward toward Columbia. Near Spring Hill the Union brigade attacked a Confederate Army force composed of two regiments.
The Federals were repelled, but Confederate General Earl Van Dorn seized the initiative. On the following day Van Dorn ordered a frontal attack, while General Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry swept around the left flank and into the rear of the Union force.
On Tuesday, March 3, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln signed a national draft law, imposing liability on all male Northerners between the ages of twenty and forty-five years, with the exception of those who were mentally or physically unfit, those convicted of a felony, men with certain types of dependents, and various Federal and state officials.
On February 28, 1863, architect James J. Gifford began constructing a theater for John T. Ford in Washington DC. The new theater opened its doors in August, and had a seating capacity of 2,400. The theater was celebrated at the time as a “magnificent new thespian temple.”
On February 27, 1863, a Congressional conference committee finalized the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act. Habeas Corpus is the right of a prisoner to challenge the basis of his confinement.
The Constitution prohibits Congress from suspending this right, except in times of rebellion or invasion. On that basis, Congress granted military officials acting on authority of the President the right to detain prisoners indefinitely or until the end of the Civil War.
On February 26, 1863, Andrew Johnson delivered a speech to a pro-Union convention in Indianapolis, during which he strongly criticized Confederate leaders for seceding from the Union. Before the Civil War, Johnson had been a Democratic Senator from Tennessee.
He was the only Southern Senator not to resign at the war’s outbreak in 1861. In 1862, President Lincoln appointed Johnson to serve as military governor of Tennessee, then occupied by Union forces.
On February 25, 1863, the nation saw a major reorganization of its financial system, when Congress passed and President Lincoln signed the National Currency Act. At this time, the nation had no uniform currency.
The act established federal banks that issued legal tender backed by the US Treasury. The act also authorized the federal government to tax notes issued by state banks, which had the effect of driving them out of circulation.
On February 24, 1863, Arizona was formally organized as a federal territory. Claimed from Mexico in the war of 1846-48, the territory had seen sparse settlement until the discovery of gold near the town of Prescott in 1863.
When it was still a part of the New Mexico Territory, Arizona had been claimed and occupied by the Confederacy. Local historians are proud to boast that the “westernmost” battle of the Civil War was fought at Picaho Pass, roughly 50 miles from Tucson.