In the vanguard of Lee’s advance toward the North, Jeb Stuart and eight thousand of his cavalry at Brandy Station, Virginia entertained themselves for several days, holding grand reviews for General Lee, John Bell Hood’s Texas division, and the local citizenry, before engaging Union cavalry on Tuesday, June 9, 1863.
Union mortar boats at Vicksburg relentlessly bombarded the Confederate defenders and civilian population of that city.
A resident of Vicksburg in early June 1863 described the Federal bombardment, noting “Twenty-four hours of each day these preachers of the Union made their touching remarks to the town. All night long their deadly hail of iron dropped through roofs and tore up the deserted and denuded streets.”
Near Vicksburg on Sunday, June 7, 1863 Confederate Texans under General Richard Taylor attacked the Federal garrison at Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana. The Confederates overwhelmed the Federal defenses, driving the defenders, including black troops, to the Mississippi riverbank.
Attempting to ascertain Robert E. Lee’s intentions, on Friday, June 5, 1863 Union troops from Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac made a reconnaissance at Franklin’s Crossing, north of Fredericksburg, Virginia and found Confederate forces blocking them.
Hooker at Falmouth and Lincoln and the War Department at Washington exchanged telegrams about the apparent shift of Lee’s army, and Washington advised Hooker to attack the moving Confederates rather than cross the Rappahannock and wholesale engage those still at Fredericksburg.
Following consultations with President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee decided to once again invade the North with his Army of Northern Virginia. Even the loss of Stonewall Jackson and the army’s subsequent reorganization would not deter Lee.
On Tuesday, June 2, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln conferred with General John Reynolds about the Army of the Potomac. Reynolds had a record of criticizing his superiors, including Ambrose Burnside and Joseph Hooker.
He had previously written in a private letter, “If we do not get someone soon who can command an army without consulting 'Stanton and Halleck' at Washington, I do not know what will become of this Army." Lincoln is believed to have asked Reynolds whether he would consider commanding the Army of the Potomac.
Having received Lincoln’s support over his arrest of the Copperhead agitator Clement Vallandigham, General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Department of the Ohio, on Monday, June 1, 1863 ordered the Chicago Times newspaper taken over by the military “on account of the repeated expression of disloyal and incendiary sentiments.”
The suppression of the Times, an anti-Lincoln administration paper, aroused immediate excitement throughout the North. A large number of Chicago’s citizens, including Mayor Francis Sherman, appealed to President Lincoln to rescind Burnside’s actions.
The demise of Stonewall Jackson after Chancellorsville forced Robert E. Lee to reorganize his Army of Northern Virginia. On Saturday, May 30, 1863 Lee authorized three new corps commanders—Generals R.S. Ewell, A.P. Hill, and James Longstreet.
On Friday, May 29, 1863 General Ambrose Burnside, Union commander at Cincinnati, offered his unconditional resignation to Lincoln as a result of the arrest, conviction, and banishment of Clement Vallandigham, the Northern Copperhead leader.
Lincoln refused to accept Burnside’s resignation even though Indiana Governor Oliver Morton and other politicians had protested Vallandigham’s arrest on the grounds that it increased opposition to the war in the critical, border states along the Ohio River.
On Wednesday, May 27, 1863 General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered an attack on Fort Hill, a Confederate strong point on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, utilizing several Union gunboats including the hard luck USS Cincinnati.
Sunk while attacking Fort Pillow in May 1862 but later raised and restored to duty, the stern-wheel, casemate gunboat Cincinnati with logs and bales of hay to protect her crew was promptly sent to the bottom of the Mississippi with her colors still flying from the stump of her mast.