On January 11, 1863, the Confederate vessel Alabama squared off against the Union’s Hatterasa* in the vicinity of the Galveston Lighthouse. The Hatteras had initially given chase and overtaken the Confederate raider.
When Union Captain Homer Blake demanded that the Alabama’s crew identify themselves, they instead opened fire. The thirteen minute exchange of cannon fire ended with the Hatteras sinking, and with most of its crew taken prisoner.
On January 11, 1863, Union Major General John A. McClernand concluded a joint naval/army operation against the Confederate Fort Hindman, also known as Arkansas Post, at the mouth of the Arkansas River. The battle saw the capture of approximately 5,000 Confederate troops, mostly from the states of Texas and Arkansas.
While the American Civil War engulfed some parts of the country, life elsewhere continued as usual. On January 8, 1863, ground was broken in Sacramento, California for the nation’s first continental railroad.
While conducting the war, President Abraham Lincoln found time on July 1, 1862 to sign the Pacific Railroad Bill, promising generous land grants and 30-year government bonds to help finance the effort.
On January 8, 1863, Confederate forces failed to dislodge Union supply and medical facilities in Springfield, Missouri. The attack force of approximately 1,700 Confederates was commanded by Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke.
Facing the attack was a Union force of 2,000, which had the advantage of solid defensive fortifications and the higher ground. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the slaveholding state of Missouri had declared itself to be an “armed neutral.”
The American Civil War exposed profound evils in American society. While General Ulysses S. Grant played a central role in the war’s outcome, he also perpetrated one of its more unfortunate infamies.
On January 6, 1863, President Lincoln rescinded Order #11, recently issued by Grant in December, which barred all Jews from the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. In issuing the order, Grant accused Jews of profiteering from the black market trade in cotton.
Unlike previous conflicts, the American Civil War saw the rapid transmission of news, thanks to the invention of the telegraph. Within three days of the Emancipation Proclamation becoming official, the public was already offering divergent interpretations.
On January 4, 1863, Reverend Nathanial Hall of Dorchester, Massachusetts told his congregation that the moral stain of slavery had “poisoned the whole atmosphere of American social life.” As a result of slavery, freedom and justice in the country had become paralyzed.
On January 3, 1863, the three-day Battle for Stone’s River concluded. The battle had seen Confederate General Braxton Bragg attempt to assume a commanding position in middle Tennessee.
Twice, Bragg moved against Union positions under the command of Major General William J. Rosecrans. With the benefit of artillery and superior positioning, Rosecrans prevailed both times, and Bragg finally withdrew. After having faced a string of disappointments in the previous year, the Union enjoyed a boost in morale in the battle’s aftermath.
On January 2, 1863, the outcome of the bloodiest conflict in the nation’s history remained very much in doubt. In the West, the previous year had seen the Union capture the critical port of New Orleans, and Ulysses S. Grant prevail, albeit barely, at the battle of Shiloh. But in the East, the war remained a stalemate.
On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, as President Lincoln declared all slaves on Confederate territory forever free. The declaration represented a shift in the President’s thinking.
On August 22, 1862, the President had said that his “paramount objective in fighting the war was to “save the Union,” and if he “could save the Union, without freeing any slave,” he would do it. The Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to slaves in the loyal Border States.
On New Years’ Eve, 1862, Confederate Major General John G. Magruder set sail from Houston, on his way to reclaim the nearby port of Galveston. Magruder’s fleet consisted of two vessels, both reinforced with compressed cotton to protect the invaders inside.
As Magruder’s “Cottonclads,” entered Galveston Harbor, they seemed hopelessly outgunned by six Union vessels. One of Magruder’s vessels was sunk immediately. But, with his surviving vessel, Magruder prevailed on January 1.