On Tuesday morning, April 14, 1863 Union forces under General Nathaniel Banks took possession of Fort Bisland, Louisiana which Confederate troops had abandoned during the prior night.
Moving against Confederate held Port Hudson on the Mississippi River, Union forces in a series of maneuvers had traversed the marshy swamps of the Bayou Teche region and attacked Confederate troops under the command of General Richard Taylor at Fort Bisland, located in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana.
Fort Sumter at Charlestown, South Carolina was symbolically important to the Union war effort. It was, of course, the site of the war’s beginning and was the first Federal installation under siege to capitulate to the Confederates.
If Sumter could be retaken by force of arms, the Union would score a major psychological victory which would help erase the bitterness of the war’s outbreak. As such, Lincoln desired Sumter to be retaken and was not pleased to learn that Flag Officer Samuel Du Pont’s Union fleet had be badly damaged in its assault against Sumter on April 7.
On Saturday, April 11, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, just returned from his visit to Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac, conferred with his Cabinet members and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck on military matters.
The following day Lincoln received a letter from General Hooker in which the general proposed to outflank Lee’s army which opposed him across the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg. Hooker noted that he intended to cross the river, turn the Confederate left flank, and use his cavalry to server connections with Richmond. He would then engage and destroy Lee’s army.
The Confederate Congress and President Jefferson Davis sometimes disagreed on policy matters, but on Friday, April 10, 1863 Davis concurred with congressional opposition to the planting of cotton and tobacco, acknowledging:
“Let fields be devoted exclusively to the production of corn, oats, beans, peas, potatoes, and other food for man and beast; let corn be sown broadcast for fodder ...and let all your efforts be directed to the prompt supply of these articles in the districts where our armies are operating.”
While Abraham Lincoln visited with Union General Joseph Hooker and his Army of the Potomac in Virginia, the fighting around Vicksburg, Mississippi continued. Federal troops under General John McClernand continued their operations below Milliken’s Bend.
On Tuesday, April 4, 1863, Union ironclads under the command of Flag Officer Samuel Du Pont steamed into Charlestown Harbor and in an ill-advised maneuver attacked Fort Sumter.
Confederate shore batteries and those at Sumter returned fire, successfully damaging five of the attacking Union warships. The combined Confederate batteries fired over 2200 shells at their attackers, compared to only 154 fired from the ironclads.
Despite any lingering doubts about commander of the Army of the Potomac General Joseph Hooker, Abraham Lincoln was determined to see Hooker victorious on the battlefield.
On April 4, 1863, President Lincoln journeyed by boat from Washington, D.C. to Fredericksburg to confer with his general. Over the next five days Lincoln attempted to focus Hooker’s attention on Robert E. Lee’s army rather than Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, arguing that the city would fall only after Lee was defeated in the field.
Throughout the war, Confederate President Jefferson Davis often found the governors of far western states critical of the Confederate war effort in general and specifically resentful of the focus given to the eastern theater of war.
On Friday April 3, 1863 Davis wrote to Arkansas Governor Harris Flanagin, attempting to reassure the governor by noting “if we lost control of the eastern side [of the Mississippi Valley], the western must almost inevitably fall into the power of the enemy.
President Jefferson Davis on April 2, 1863, in response to criticism of Vicksburg’s commanding general, John Clifford Pemberton, wrote:
“By his judicious disposition of his forces and skillful selection of the best points of defense he has repulsed the enemy at Vicksburg, Port Hudson, on the Tallahatchie and at Deer Creek, and has thus far foiled his every attempt to get possession of the Mississippi river and the vast section of country which it controls.”
On Thursday, April 2, 1863 the so-called “Bread Riot” occurred in Richmond, Virginia. Allegedly a mob crowded around a wagon, demanding bread. The unruly mob then broke into shops and took whatever they wished, including jewelry and other finery.
President Jefferson Davis personally proceeded to the scene, climbed aboard a wagon near the Capitol building, and threw the rioters the money he had in his pocket, telling the mob “(Y)ou say you are hungry and have no money. Here is all I have; it is not much but take it.”