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.
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.